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Screen Guidelines for the Summer

Last summer I wanted to show our kids that we weren’t against screens. Rather, we were for activity and nature and friendship and learning. So I told them as long as they had days that involved time with people in real life, time moving their bodies, time creating something, and time reading, they were free to also spend time on screens.

You can guess what happened next. They rushed through said creative, engaging, meaningful activities as quickly as possible and retreated to their respective iPads and phones. 

So here’s what we are trying in our household this summer. When they wake up, they can have 20-30 minutes to check their texts (Marilee), the New York Times home page (William), the Yankees score (Penny) and so forth. They can even return to check these types of things throughout the day. But from 9-5 they may not sit down with an individualized device in their hands. No YouTube or Netflix or Minecraft or Roblox. 

They can play video games, together. They can watch movies, together. But otherwise, they don’t get to retreat into the black mirror until later in the day. AND they know to expect to be interrupted by real live people—dinner, games, walks, laundry!—even after 5:00 comes to pass.

So far, so good. William is playing the piano and Penny is learning how to cook and Marilee is becoming a world-class organizer of spaces. They are experiencing the discomfort of boredom and pulling out books and reaching out to friends. The rules that felt a bit draconian to me are opening up space for exploration and laughter and freedom. We might all be learning what we are for after all.

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