NOTVDo you remember the lazy days of summer when you were growing up? Maybe you’d ride your bike to a friend’s house, play tag, grab some kids for a game of baseball, or read a good book while lounging in a hammock?

Fast forward to today when the average child ages 8-18 is on an electronic gadget (phone, TV, video game, Netflix, etc.) 53 hours per week. (Yes, you read that correctly and it is NOT a typo!)

Yet, the research tells us that kids who overuse electronics are more disrespectful, sleep less, become numb to violence, view over one million ads per year, are more aggressive, more prone to obesity, have earlier sexual experiences, experience a higher rate of cyberbullying and are more likely to have emotional, social and attention problems. In addition, studies done at UCLA by Dr. Gary Small indicate that overuse of media is causing changes in children’s brain structure in areas of the brain responsible for empathy and reading social cues.

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If you wish your kids would get off electronics this summer and enjoy more of the fun that you had as a kid, it’s going to take some effort on your part to wean them off the addictive nature of electronic gadgets.

Here are some steps you can take to reel in media use in your family.

1. Keep a log of media use in your family. Then, you’ll learn where the trouble spots are in your family. Is it TV? Social media? Smart phone use?

2. Set a limit on electronics use. Determine the number of hours each day you’ll allow media use and define what you mean by “electronic use.” Does radio count? How about smart phones?

3. Develop a coupon system for media use. For every two hours of playing outside, reading, doing chores, etc. the child can earn 30-min of media time.

4. Determine media free zones. Media use can be off-limits during meals and family time, for instance. (And certainly at bedtime.)

5. Set a media free time each day. Perhaps you shut off all gadgets from 7-8 p.m. so you can connect as a family.

6. Determine a media-free day. Perhaps you’d like to try one media-free day a week or one a month when you get out of the house and have some fun together!

7. Come up with a list of fun activities to do instead of using media so the kids have ideas on how to fill their time. It’s going to be VERY hard for them to think of what to do instead and they’ll probably be “bored” and crabby, so here are some ideas to get you started.


1. Teach them outside games from your youth.

2. Here are some creative ideas, too:

3. Make inventions. Collect all sorts of recyclable materials such as buttons, bottle caps, yarn, leather strips, wire, boxes, etc. and have your kids make inventions from the materials. Give them no direction except to use their imaginations to create an invention. (My kids would spend hours doing this.)

4. Teach them card games.

5. Get crafty. FamilyFun magazine has been a staple at our house for years. They have TONS of fun ideas. Here’s a link to an online resource, too;

6. Plan a family game night each week. Here are some suggestions:

7. Do fun science experiments.

8. Send them on a photo adventure. Give the kids a camera and set them loose.

9. Picnic at your favorite nature spot.

10. Set up water games in the backyard.

Fun Activities to Boost Social-Emotional Skills and Stay Screen-Free This Summer for Young Children
(Info provided by )

Veggie Feelings Faces. Cut up a variety of vegetables and make faces. Try cucumber eyes, carrot nose, red pepper mouth, and lettuce or sprouts for hair. Make different feeling expressions like a turned-down mouth (sad) or baby carrot eyebrows pointing down (angry) and talk about those feelings. Make the feelings with your own faces and check them out together in a mirror. Remind your child that all feelings are okay.

Stop and Think. Play ‘old-school’ games like Mother May I, Simon Says, and Red Light, Green Light. They help children develop that all-important impulse control. When they have mastered the original game, change it up a bit. For Red Light, Green Light, have purple mean go and blue mean stop. For Simon Says, have your child touch the opposite of what you say: instead of touching their head when you say ‘head’ they touch their toes.

Stay the Course. Set up an obstacle course – children really enjoy this sort of challenge. Have your child think of ‘rules’ for completing the course – do you go over or under the table, do you crawl on all fours under the blanket or scoot on your belly. Coming up with and following rules helps develop self-control and a sense of accomplishment.

Fishing for feelings. Draw and cut out some round smiley/frowning/mad/sad faces. Put a paper clip on each. Tie a piece of string on the end of a chopstick or small stick, and tie a magnet on the other end. Go fishing for a feeling. Talk about what your child ‘catches.’ What might make him angry? When is he happy? What was a time he felt sad? Share your answers to the questions, too. Children love to know adults have feelings just like theirs.

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