Mixing-up Offline and Online Activities

When school is out, there is a tendency to take lots of digital breaks.

With long weekends or school vacation my boys are ecstatic, but I am a little bit less so.  What begins as good intentions - "we'll go to museums, we'll do arts and crafts, we'll play board games as one big, happy family" - too often ends as, "let's watch the iPad." (Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, as this article will show you.)

So while I put some measures in place to keep my boys alert and interested, I thought I would share them with you.

Don’t ban all Internet-related activities.  If your family is like mine, you may have a mini-revolt on your hands.  Use the downtime to look at some things together online – if you’re on a ski vacation, how about checking out the history of skiing?  National Geographic puts out some beautiful and interactive history lessons on skiing.  A long weekend vacation with stormy skies? Why not check out some of Huffington Posts entries on weird weather.

Sprinkle a little bit of online time throughout the day.  Set your schedule: your children are allowed 30 minutes a day? 1 hour a day?  Try to divvy up the time into morning and afternoon activities after an outing.  And try to avoid evening online time, as most children get worked up and stay worked up with too much screen time.

If you’re not up to date on all of the latest and greatest trends, apps, games etc. that’s happening in the digital world, use this time as bonding time with your kids.  Yep, I said it. Use the Internet to bond with your children: ask them to show you their favorite sites, apps, games, etc.  You will be able to see and understand what your children are doing and they will feel pretty cool for showing Mom or Dad a thing or two.

Take your learning moments where you find them (version 1). One of your kids say "Mom, this is so much fun."  Your response, "Of course honey, we can do lots of fun things without always being online."  Okay, maybe a bit too 1950s, but you can choose your own variation.  The important thing is to seize the moment of fun and remark upon it.

Take your learning moments where you find them (version 2). Your child is online and there is a pop-up with a pretty offensive image.  Your child says "Oh, gross." Your response: "Well that certainly is. But you know honey, not everything that you see online is real. Promise me that you will always talk to me if you see anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, afraid, or shocked."  Again, modify this script for your own family. The important thing: realize that your children will see creepy stuff online and your role is to parent, not panic.

Make a game out of who can remain disconnected the longest. This is a variation on a game that my children play: called “1, 2, 3, I am the King of Silence.”  (I promise, it rhymes better in French.)  Give a prize to the child who goes without Internet the longest.  The prize doesn’t have to be the latest high-tech toy (although I am sure you would have many silent days in order to win that prize), but it can be as simple as Mommy and Me time only for the winner.  Or maybe baking a special treat? Or playing that child's favorite board game? Or maybe just 10 super duper big hugs?

Figure out what works best for your family.  If some of the tips work for you, but others don’t, well there is an easy fix: jettison the junk.  Only you know what works best for your family and your lifestyle.  Digital parenting is a learning curve and we are all in this together!

If you have a particular tip that works for you, please share it so we can all benefit. Happy vacation or long weekend!

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