Summer is in full swing, bringing longer days and relaxed schedules. But that also means even more time for kids to be tethered to their devices. So how can parents ensure that the dog days of summer don’t turn into the digital days of summer? Here are a few tips to help kids find balance over the break.
Is your child heading to camp? Know the rules.
As summer begins, many kids are trading their classroom tablets and laptops for campfire songs and bug repellent. It can be easy to think that campers are beyond the reach of social media—or even cell phone reception—but today's camp experience has become increasingly intertwined with some of the same challenges that schools face throughout the school year. More and more are coming up with camp social media policies as a way of promoting healthy socialization and building an inclusive camp community – so if your child is heading to camp, ask what the online (and in-real-life) rules are around posting and sharing.
Understand #squadgoal sadness.
For kids who are constantly worried about shifting social status, summer can be a time of increased anxiety, where they worry about how social dynamics play out now that there are no daily school experiences (for others, of course, the break from school is much-needed).
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There’s so much research suggesting that spending increased time on social media has the potential to increase anxiety and depression for adults, and it is not a stretch to think that kids can feel the same way. Much of it is a result of FOMO, or the fear of missing out. This summer, find ways to help kids shift the fear of missing out to the fun of missing out, or even JOMO, the joy of missing out. Parents are key to modeling and encouraging this shift – if you are on vacation, resist the urge to document every moment. Encourage phones and screens to be put away during meals and for times at the beach. Perhaps create a game – maximum of five images/videos per day (unless on safari in Africa).
Find ways to divert the incremental creep of usage.
When I talk about the incremental creep of social media usage, I often use the example of scrolling through an entire feed and then refreshing the feed from the beginning again and again – even though little (or no) new content has been added in the feed. From there, it can be easy to shift to searching for images with hashtags, and liking, sharing, and commenting for hours. One way to help encourage self-awareness is to encourage them to “figure out their why?” – why are they pulling out their phone? Are they sad? Lonely? Frustrated? Why are they posting? The key is to help kids to start thinking for themselves without feeling fear and judgment.
Create fun opportunities for digital detox.
Given how easy it is to slide into social media, parents can become determined to find ways to get offline. This can seem obvious, but digital detox is far more effective if it is fun. “Put the phone away!” might be a short-term solution, but summer time can be a great opportunity to promote creative ways to be offline. For example, it could be fun to give kids a set budget to plan a half-day of offline activities or adventure. Remember: digital detox time is not necessarily time for kids to only do chores!
Summer is a time where most of us want to relax – and keeping up with all the new features on social media apps is likely not at the top of most parents’ to-do list.But it should be – because some of the features have the potential to affect social, emotional, and physical safety. For instance, Snapchat’s newest feature, Snap Map, has the very cool ability to allow users to view news from around the world, but users may not realize that their exact location may be announced to all users in their friend list each time they open the app.Even in the heat of summer, parents should try and stay aware of new features on the social media apps their kids use, and help kids proactively come up with a plan of what to do and who to reach out to if something happens online or in-real-life that doesn’t go as planned.