How to ease your kids into a hybrid play model

Emma McGowan 10 Jun 2022

Limiting screen time is always a battle, but it’s worth it — especially in summer.

As school children are released for the summer and some of the tighter Covid restrictions start to lift, pandemic-fatigued parents are ready to get their kids out of the house. But it might be even trickier than usual this summer, as kids who have gotten accustomed to increased screen time push back against parents who want to rip their precious devices out of their sticky hands.

For parents, the battle over the iPad or the phone can sometimes feel like too much. But, luckily, there’s a similar battle that many parents can relate to: The insistence of the boss that workers return to the office after over two years working from home. The boss wants everyone back, but the workers aren’t interested in long commutes and wasted time in the office. So what’s the solution?

One compromise that some companies are leaning toward now is a “hybrid work” model, which allows workers to spend some of the week working from home and some of the week in-office. Similarly, you can implement a “hybrid play” model to help ease your kids away from the tech-heavy days of the pandemic and back into the “real” world. Here’s how to do it.

Set clear rules and consequences 

It’s likely that your household’s screen time rules relaxed or even collapsed during the height of the pandemic. And that’s totally fine! We were all literally just trying to survive in completely new circumstances, so a little (or a lot) more time on the smartphone was worth not going insane while your kids were home. 

But now that there are more opportunities to get out of the house, it’s time to reimplement those clear rules and consequences. While every household will have their own rules, you can sit down with your kids and have a conversation about how things are changing again and what you plan on being the norm moving forward. Be open to their feedback and concerns, just as you’d hope your boss would be open to your feedback when you push back about returning to the office.

Follow those rules yourself

Kids weren’t the only ones getting in more screen time during the pandemic — chances are you’re feeling a little screen fatigue yourself. Make some screen time rules for the grownups, too, and implement consequences when they’re not followed. This not only models responsible use of devices for your kids, but also shows them that you’re in it together, as a family. 

Be consistent

You’re a parent, so you already know this: Consistency is key. Once you’ve implemented the rules, it’s your job to make sure that they’re consistently applied. Otherwise, you’re breaking your kids’ trust — so why should they listen to you at all?

Implement tech-free times or places

Maybe your family has a “no devices at the dinner table” rule. Or maybe there are certain times of day or days of the week when tech isn’t allowed. Or maybe, as you move into a hybrid play model, tech isn’t allowed when kids are playing outside. 

Creating tech-free environments helps your kids get creative with how they’re going to amuse themselves. The more fun activities they do without their devices, the more open they’ll be to reducing their screen time. 

Be proactive in setting up outdoor activities 

These past two plus years have felt long, right? Now imagine how long they feel to someone for whom two years is a significant percentage of their entire life! Your kids might not even remember the fun things they used to do outside — or they might have grown out of those activities entirely. So help them out by being proactive in suggesting activities and setting specific outdoor-only play time every week. 

Implement “cheat” days

Everyone needs a cheat day once in a while; a day when the rules are off the table. Work “cheat days” when your kids can have unlimited screen time into your hybrid play model. Maybe it’s rainy days or once a month or whatever works best for everyone. Think of it as a little reward for being so awesome all of the other days.

Screen time is always a battle, but it’s worth it — especially in summer. Use the hybrid play method to help make it a little easier and get your kid back out into the sun!

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