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Summer 2016 is almost here. It’s a great time for family fun, outdoor activities, visiting museums and historical sites, and choosing from all sorts of camps and special programs. Problem is, many kids spend a lot of their summer vacation in front of screens, and it’s one of the hardest time of the year to focus on digital moderation.
With less frenetic schedules and no school, the summer months are a good time for parents to learn more about the digital whirl that’s such a huge part of kids’ 21st Century lives. So when school is out, plan to do some connected world exploring and learning together, concentrating on projects that can help family members — children and their parents — connect with interesting and meaningful work together. Everyone will figure out more about digital life and add some variety to the types of digital activities that they typically do.
Below are 10 family digital project summer suggestions — all activities require collaboration — to consider for the upcoming summer vacation.
Ten Summer Digital Projects for Families
- Start a family blog or construct a family website (Weebly, Word Press, or Blog.com). Decide what family members will have access — grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins — and invite them to help with content. Ask lots of extended family members to contribute, but you and your child, especially, should do the writing, editing, and working on the blog. Share family updates, travels, achievements, and more — an excellent way to keep up writing skills over the summer and a wonderful way to bring family members together despite long distances. This is a long-term project that can continue or months or even years.
- Teach yourselves a bit about coding. If no one in your family knows much about the topic, MIT Scratch (free download or use the website) offers a basic graphical coding introduction. Scratch is easy and user-friendly, and you and your children can have fun designing mini-video games. A wide range of “coding toys” and you can check out my Pinterest Coding Toys and Robotics Board. If your child is a Minecraft player, check out the Parents’ Guide to Minecraft so you can learn more about the game.
- Find a Maker Faire to visit. At MakerFaire.com you can find out where and when the nearest maker fair will be held. You can also explore and discover Makerspaces.com to discover a location near you. Check, also, this list of academic and public libraries that have makerspaces to see if one is near to you. If you visit a museum this summer you may find that it has a makerspace.
- Organize the family’s digital photos. Adults and kid picture-takers can work together to download, sort, label, and back-up the photos on all of the digital devices in the house. Think about turning some of the picture albums into picture books or calendars (gifts or mementos) at sites like iPhoto/iTunes, Shutterfly, or Blurb. Consider uploading some of these pictures to a digital frame and give it to a grandparent or other older relative.
- Clean up everyone’s digital profiles. Find out what happens when you Google yourself or check Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites where you share, upload, and leave comments. You probably need to get to work deleting at least some of your content that doesn’t need to be online. The Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) posts this handy digital profile clean-up checklist.
- Help a senior citizen or elder in your family or community to become more confident on a computer, mobile phone, or iPad. Check out the iPad for Dad series over at AsOurParentsAge. to find out more about how an elder learns. You can also help older adults become more savvy about fraud and scams, because they cause so many problems for elders.
- Make a digital device app inventory or all family devices, and clean off each person’s digital device. Not using certain apps? Then retire them even if it is just temporarily. Are there pictures that on the devices that can be deleted or saved in other places?
- If you child goes to away to summer camp, agree ahead of time about how you will communicate and perhaps agree to write at least a few old-fashioned letters — though you may first need to explain how to write a letter and address an envelope. While it’s easy to use digital communications to stay in touch, constant communication with a summer camper may thwart the growth of independence — what summer sleep-away is supposed to foster. Check out this 2013 CNN article, Camp Gives Camp a Tech Break, to see how one mother thinks about summer camp.
- Parents and kids can be makers at home by figuring out how to construct a family charging station where all family devices can charge at night — away from bedrooms.
- Plan a visit to a museum near you or on one of your trips. Ask your child to do the research online, finding out about special programs and events — and maybe even a makerspace. Or use the Find a Museum website to discover a place to visit.
Summer digital projects set the stage for family members to discover new connected world information and model positive behavior. These collaborative times offer lots of conversation opportunities — moments when information-sharing occurs because people are interested and not because of a concern.
This summer be sure to plan regular and frequent device-free times for the family — hikes, meals, reading, or read aloud activities — times when everyone agrees to leave the gadgets alone, not making or accepting phone calls unless it’s an emergency. Read this New York Times article to get started. And this summer, when you visit restaurants, use the time for family conversations rather than letting kids play on iPads while adults talk. The art of conversation seems to be fading according to MIT Professor, Sherry Turtle in her book Reclaiming Conversations. Perhaps this summer you can help your children gain some broader skill when it comes to talking with others.