FORT MYERS, Fla. — By the end of the week, school will be out for everyone in Southwest Florida. For parents, that's when the real challenge of managing your child’s summer screen time begins.
According to Dr. Alise Bartley, Clinical Assistant Professor and Director of the Community Counseling Center at Florida Gulf Coast University, one of the best things you can do is keep those summer months structured.
Dr. Bartley said kids are averaging twelve hours a day behind a screen and the American Academy of Pediatrics only recommends 30 minutes for young children.
“Screens are here to stay, this isn't something that's going to be going away. What we need to do is to figure out how to use it most effectively. So what I recommend is that you have structured time and even structured unstructured time, which is maybe from 2:00 to 4:00 your kids can do whatever they'd like to do. But maybe from 9:00 to 10:00, we make certain that they go outside and play for a while,” said Dr. Bartley.
She said it’s also important to pay close attention to your child’s behavior during screen time.
If your child is interacting with you, making face-to-face contact with you, and can set the screen down, she said there isn't a problem. But if they're not able to do those things, she recommends removing the device or limiting it to less than an hour a day.
She also recommends finding educational screen time options to strike a healthy balance, especially since she said children lost months of learning time during the pandemic.
The Lee County Library System’s “Tails and Tales” summer reading program is one option that kicks off Monday.
The program features reading and learning adventures about wildlife and folktales. Part of what it offers are engaging virtual programs for pre-K through teenage kids and adults.
Learn more about the program here.