As parents, we can look forward to summer as a time with lighter schedules, less structure and no homework. Let’s face it — we all need a break, and the warm, carefree days of summer give us the perfect opportunity. However, too many lazy days can lead to boredom, resulting in the well-worn phrase “I’m bored.” Today’s kids have so much technology at their fingertips — TV, movies, video games, the internet — that it can take some special effort to get them engaged in a wider variety of activities, activities that are important to keeping them “mentally fit”.
Studies have shown that playing video games and watching television increase over the summer months. The vast majority of parents report this increase from their children, while a small minority, 13% to 16%, reports less. Generally, internet use also increases significantly over summer. Although television, videos games and the internet can provide unstructured downtime, there are negatives that come from too much of these types of activities.
The American Academy of Children and Adolescent Psychology reports that children who watch television 3 to 4 hours a day will have spent more time in front of the television than they have in the classroom by the time they reach high school graduation. These kids exercise less, are more likely to be overweight, read fewer books and have lower grades in school. Add to that the time spent playing video games and surfing the internet, and we have record numbers of kids in crisis.
The patterns of childhood establish critical lifelong learning and recreation habits, and it’s our responsibility as parents to help our kids make healthy choices. Participation in a variety of well-chosen multisensory activities enables children to expand their brains and develop critical learning skills, especially during these early formative years. So while there are fun and educational television programs and video games available, as parents, we need to monitor time and choices, as we encourage our kids to pursue more interactive play. The lazy days of summer are a wonderful time to enjoy new hobbies, discover new talents and fill the days with plenty of open-ended, creative opportunities.