Managing Summer Screen Time

Those lazy days of summer are nearly upon us and that means.... the kids might end up in front of lots of screens. Time with the TV, computers and iPads can quickly overtake our relaxed schedules. Here's a plan to enjoy them, but help you keep them in check.Ah, summer. School is out, backpacks are stashed away, and the kids wake up every morning filled with the beautiful promise of play time, flip flops and freedom. So how do they want to spend it?

Watching TV, of course. Or playing on tablets, game systems, computers, and any variety of handheld devices.

These activities can be fun and educational in moderation. But in summer we need to be extra vigilant about setting boundaries, ensuring our kiddos get equal time reading, crafting, swimming, playing in the yard and so on.

How can smart (and busy) parents keep screen time from taking over?

Introducing screen time tickets—a simple solution to minimizing screen time and maximizing your child’s cooperation.

Here’s how it works.

  • Every Monday, give your child a budget of 10 screen time tickets for the week. Each ticket is worth 30 minutes of screen time or 50 cents.
  • Kids may spend the tickets on screen time; however, when the tickets are gone, they’re gone—until the following week.
  • At the end of the week, the kids can cash in any unused tickets.

Bonus! We allow our children to earn extra screen time tickets by reading (30 minutes of reading = one extra ticket) or doing chores.

You can decide as a family what parameters to place around the screen time ticket system. For us it worked best to apply tickets between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. We didn’t require the kids to spend their tickets on family movie nights or certain computer programs such as IXL Math or Cool Math Games. And if siblings chose to watch TV together, each child had to spend a ticket. There was no two-for-one option available.

When we implemented the screen time ticket system last summer, my husband and I fully expected our kids to blow all 10 tickets the first day. But it turned out the tickets served as a wonderful regulator and motivator. Our children thought twice before asking to watch TV; it was no longer their default boredom-buster. Instead, they had fun seeing how many tickets they could preserve for payday. In the end, our family enjoyed a summer filled with a balance of activities, and—best of all—there was no scolding to “turn off the TV!” Hallelujah!

For a free printable of screen time tickets, click here.

Becky Kopitzke

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