Blog: Bright Ideas

Screen Time Recommendations in Summertime and Alternatives for Getting Kids Active

Kids love their tech. That's no surprise, since so many of us do. Digital media is something we have come to depend on in nearly every aspect of life. It can be a challenge to get kids to put down their devices and get involved in other activities, especially in the summertime when there is more free time. Setting limits is necessary, as is providing alternative activities that are just as engaging to get them up and moving around. Knowing the summertime screen time recommendations and having some exciting alternatives planned will ensure that parents can create balance between productive media use and other healthy behaviors. 

How Much Screen Time Is Too Much?

The American Academy of Pediatrics updated their screen time recommendations in 2016. These guidelines take into consideration a number of factors tied to screen time, which is defined as “broadcast and streamed television and movies, sedentary and active video games, social and interactive media that can be creative and engaging, and even highly immersive virtual reality.” 

  • Kids under 18 months of age: AAP recommends avoiding screen use altogether with the exception of video-chatting. Limited and supervised video-chats can help infants learn language and build relationships with distant family members.
  • From 18 to 24 months: At this age, parents should opt for very limited exposure to high-quality media, and ensure that they are there to interpret content for their kids.
  • From 2 to 5 years: AAP suggests no more than one hour per day of quality programs and again recommends parents view with their kids to help them understand what they are seeing and how it applies to their world.
  • Ages 6 years and older: For this age group, AAP does not give specific recommendations, instead suggesting that parents balance media use with other healthy activities. They further encourage parents to create media-free family times, such as during meals or before bed, and media-free zones, such as bedrooms or in cars.

Why Does It Matter?

It is important to consider the opportunity cost associated with excessive screen time. The AAP warns that too much time spent with screen media consumes valuable time kids would be engaged in other activities necessary for a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle. Lack of exercise and active play are associated with childhood obesity. In addition, screen media use during meals may result in overeating, as the distraction may cause kids to miss their bodies’ physical signals that they are getting full. Screen exposure, particularly before bedtime, may alter sleep patterns and result in less restful sleep. This is partly due to increased arousal, but may also be caused by a drop in melatonin caused by the blue light screens emit. Another cost of excessive screen use is the loss of human contact. The development of critical thinking and executive functioning skills, such as impulse control and self-regulation, are very dependent on parent-child interactions. These back-and-forth conversations are critical to healthy brain development.

Galileo campers dancing outdoors.

Looking for Healthy Alternatives

The longer days of summer provide plenty of time for active play, healthy eating habits and vital socialization, plus some interactive learning. One option for kids of all ages is an innovative summer day camp; Camp Galileo covers all the bases. Four engaging themes provide exciting, unplugged opportunities for kids entering pre-K through fifth grade. With days that begin with an enthusiastic welcome and a large group activity, kids are quickly drawn into the theme. The fun continues with art, science and outdoor projects that all promote active play and collaborative interactions all based on the weekly theme. Lunch and snack times provide additional opportunities for relaxed conversation. 

Through games like Human Xylophone, parents can be sure that kids get a daily dose of cooperative outdoor adventure that motivates them to keep moving. The Road Trip Adventure theme has kids learning the physical science of bridge construction and practicing the artistry of neon signage before getting outside for a tagging game called Boiler Burst. At the end of the day, kids will “bursting” with enthusiasm to share the events of their day, thus enabling those conversations so necessary for healthy development.

At Galileo Summer Quest, kids entering 4th through 8th grades immerse themselves in engaging adventures that challenge their creative energies and help them build 21st-century skills. Eleven exciting majors make it difficult to choose just one. In each, kids participate in group activities and personal projects, learning and collaborating as they progress. For physical construction activities, campers can choose to build go-karts, catapults or decadent desserts. Kids who love mystery and adventure will solve their way out of an escape room before designing their own challenging puzzle sequence complete with padlocks and electrical circuits. 

To help kids build important skills and make productive use of their screen time, GSQ has several majors focused on digital media. Game enthusiasts can choose Mobile Game Design or Mod Design with Minecraft®; other tech majors include Virtual Reality, YouTube Producers, 3-D Modeling & Printing and Robot Pet. These give kids the tech they crave while building problem solving, collaboration and communication skills. In addition, all campers are introduced to the Galileo Innovation Approach®, which helps them feel empowered to confidently share their ideas.

To a Balanced and Healthy Summer

To avoid a tug-of-war over screen media this summer, set some screen time ground rules and lead by example. By knowing the AAP recommendations, parents can use their discretion to preemptively set limits for kids’ screen time. Having plenty of unplugged family activities and fun adventures scheduled will help to balance sedentary time with active, engaged play. Summer day camp can support this balance, especially one that promotes learning and skills acquisition in a fun and social setting. The longer days will provide time for meaningful parent-child conversations, while still allowing an opportunity for some high-quality screen time. Striking a balance will ensure that summer is a happy and healthy season for the whole family. 

Check out the options for healthy, creative fun at a Galileo camp in your area: San Francisco, Southern California, and Chicagoland. Sign up for our mailing list to keep up-to-date on our camp happenings and innovation resources. Or, you can register for camp today.