School’s out for summer.
No more homework, baseball practices, or rigid bedtimes. And, if your house is like my house, no more obvious rules about when media can be on and off.
This is a dream for my kids. To me, it often feels nightmarish trying to get them to tune out of their media and tune into the real world.
My kids want to veg out in front of reruns and mind-numbing TV shows. (MTV Juvies is coming this summer. Shudder.) They want to see every blockbuster that’s being endlessly promoted—and we’re no longer talking G-rated fare like Cars.
They want to spend endless hours on their computers, playing online video games (my tween son), and checking the latest MySpace postings (my teen daughter). They both want to send IMs, chat on their phones, and download music.
They’ve worked hard all year and have earned their downtime. But what I have to remind my kids of is that just as they can’t eat junk food all summer, they can’t mindlessly consume media from sunrise to sunset either.
There are still ground rules for safe and responsible media use. And, even in the summertime, there’s homework for parents! Keep reading to get my house rules for managing summer media.
Tips for a Balanced Summer Media Diet
1. Set boundaries.
Agree with your kids in advance about how many hours will be devoted to watching TV, playing PlayStation, or IMing friends. Make sure you include reading, playing, and being outside as part of every day’s activities.
2. Review Internet safety basics.
Yes, our kids say they know the rules, but it never hurts to remind them never to give out personal information or meet strangers. And you might just want to take a look at their MySpace pages—just to be sure.
3. Do your homework.
School’s out for kids, but parents still have homework. Before you let your kids go to a movie, surf a new site, or watch a new TV series, make sure you know the content and that it’s age appropiate. Just because the original Superman movies were OK for young kids, that doesn’t mean the PG-13 Superman Returns will be. Use our reviews. Use someone else’s. But use something.
4. Enjoy media together.
Have a family movie night. Take a shopping trip to the bookstore or library. Rent video games you can play together. Enjoying media with your kids can lead naturally to conversations about what they’re seeing, playing, and hearing—and can help them think more clearly (even in the summer) about the messages they’re absorbing.