Recently--and perhaps this is ironic--I caught a moment of pure genius on Facebook. My friend Rahnell posted this photo, sharing her son Wesley's "summer daily list":

Mom Rahnell has a daily plan to help her elementary school aged son to prioritize his daily responsibilities this summer. Photo copyright Rahnell Perez-Linden 2017, used with permission.

Rahnell's photo took me back to the days when my sons were younger and the lure of summer led us to moments of less scheduled activity and more opportunity for creative learning and recreation. I have to admit that those were less complicated days. Back then "technology" meant Gameboy, Nintendo and chunky video tapes... and yes, even old-fashioned television shows on the VCR. Our goal was always to fill the boys' days with fun, but also to sneak in plenty of elective reading and outside recreation. With our school years so packed with homework, activity and just general busyness, I decided early in my sons' elementary school career that summer was a time to plan less and leave more room for spontaneity.

Technology has obviously evolved over the past years, but every parent's challenge to deal with the "Mom, I'm bored!" moments of summer means that we must plan proactively to avoid having our kids simply spend the next three months tuned in to a variety of enticing screens. And yes, I understand that an iPad can be used for reading and youtube can be a powerful place to learn new concepts... but they can also be places where we miss opportunities to interact with God, with one another, with nature, or simply to go out back and goof around with stuff like dirt and sticks and water.

We recently shared Rahnell's photo at our Facebook page and discovered that lots of moms had great ideas on managing family screen time. Like Rahnell, many of our moms shared on social media that they offer "screen time" as a perk for completed chores, finished summer learning assignments and only on particular days of the week. Mom Lucia suggested her family's habit of "Do a kind deed" or "20 minutes of prayer" as additions to the activities offered to her children.

[Tweet "Summer screen time? @LisaHendey offers tips & tricks for turning off devices & turning on fun!"]

Along with a general cutback on gaming and general "surfing" (that doesn't involve the beach), we did find a few cool Catholic technology venues to help your family plan more purposeful technology. Some of our favorite finds are:

  • - Chock full of on-demand videos, movies, audiobooks and more... and all Catholic, to help you learn the faith!
  • Kid Catholic - You won't be able to resist this pint-sized apologist as he vlogs the faith on youtube with style and personality.
  • ChurchPop Games and Quizzes - Play "Friar Dude" or Passiontide or test your knowledge of Catholic history and trivia

One thing to always remember when we're setting limits and trying to establish new routines and habits for our children is that we parents often teach our kids more with our actions than we do with our words. Mom Rebecca shared on Facebook that she would be using Rahnell's list to limit her own elective use of technology... it's not just the kids who struggle with limiting screen time!

A few quick pointers for our families to make "less screen time" a reality this summer include:

  1. Pray together about your family's goals for the summer. As Servant of God Patrick Peyton C.S.C. said, "The family that prays together stays together."
  2. Hold a "screen free summit". Before you simply say, "No more screens!", pull the kids into a family meeting and come up with a workable plan that compromises and is something your family can strive to accomplish together.
  3. Plan rewards. Think ahead about a special "family movie night" (don't forget favorite treats) or chances to earn a new game or program for good summer behavior or accomplishing learning objectives.

We want to hear from you! How do YOU manage screen time in YOUR home during summer vacation? We would also love to hear your favorite Catholic or family-friendly "screen tips" for things you DO let your kids enjoy: games, movies, etc when they have earned some screen time. Give us your thoughts, plans and frustrations or concerns in the combox below. 

Copyright 2017 Lisa M. Hendey

Image copyright Rahnell Perez-Linden, used with permission.