Summer break is swiftly approaching, and many parents are gearing up for family vacations, finding babysitters, and putting down deposits for summer camp. For many kids, more free time equals more screen time — but it doesn’t have to.
Before the final bell rings to signal the start of vacation, sit down with your kids to explain what the plan is going to be this summer and what they can expect. Having it all squared away will create less worry for when you’re at work and away from your children during the dog days. Here are some things to remember when you’re drafting your summer attack plan.
Summer Tech Tips
Enable Location Sharing on Google or Apple Maps
During the school year, there’s usually no question where your kids are during the day. Classes, clubs, and sports keep them occupied and generally in the same location. But during the summer, there are sleepovers, visits to the pool, trips to the movies, and countless other warm-weather activities. When you enable location sharing on your kids’ phones, you’ll be able to see at a glance not only exactly where they are, but also the last time they used their phone.
Use Screen Time / Family Link to Set Timers
Kids may think the hours they couldn’t use their phones while in class may suddenly become fair game during the summer. But creating chunks of time where their phones are off limits during the day will encourage them to be creative, play outside, hang out with friends, or even do some chores! Fortunately, both Apple and Android have remote-access capabilities where parents can control their kids’ phones. Even better, they both generate reports so you can see exactly where they’re spending their time on their devices.
Be Sure to Set Parental Controls
With more free time comes more access all of the different devices in your house, so make sure anything your kids can do online is something you’ve allowed them to do. This includes common living room staples like cable boxes and Netflix accounts, but also things like the chat features in video games and smart home devices like Alexa. The Barkomatic is great for finding all of these instructions for locking things down — simply select all of the different ways your child accesses the internet and you’ll receive an email with customized results.
Tips for the Whole Family
Keep an Extra Eye Out for Cyberbullying
Just because kids aren’t in the classroom doesn’t mean they’re not still in contact. In fact, over the summer, kids may only be communicating via email, text, or social media, and this can become a breeding ground for potential drama. Remember, cyberbullying isn’t like the bullying you remember, and there are more avenues for kids to harass each other than ever before. And unlike in the past, rumours that get spread over the summer don’t wait until the first day of school to become common knowledge — they can be spread to the whole class within minutes.
Revisit Your Technology Contract
With less responsibility during the summer, it’s not uncommon for children to ask for more relaxed technology rules. Right now is a perfect time to rewrite or revisit your family’s technology contract and make amendments to the rules if needed. For example, if you normally collect your child’s smartphone at 8 p.m. during the school year, you could allow them to have it for an extra hour in exchange for taking out the trash or walking the dog. Also, be sure to share the contract with anyone your kids may be spending lots of time with this summer, including babysitters, relatives, or other caregivers.
Use Bark to Prompt Important Conversations
Even with parental controls and screen time restrictions, your kids may still get into some hairy situations this summer. While part of it is just growing up, you’ll want to make sure that you’re there to help if they need you. Bark is a great family tool, and can help prompt important discussions about the things your kids are getting into on the internet.
Bark helps keep kids safe online, and by extension, in real life. It monitors text messages, emails, YouTube, and over two dozen social media platforms for signs of potential issues like cyberbullying, online predators, adult content, depression, acts of violence, and suicidal ideation. Bark will alert busy parents when issues arise, saving you time and providing peace of mind.