Summer 2017 is here, and as we enjoy family fun, outdoor activities, trips to museums and historical sites, vacations, and all sorts of camps and special programs, it’s also important to discover activities that will help 21st Century children use screen time creatively and wisely.
So with less frenetic schedules and no school, use the summer months to collaborate — that’s parents and kids doing things together. Adults can learn more about the digital whirl that’s such a huge part of young people’s 21st Century lives, and kids can engage in meaningful, creative, and interesting projects — and even have fun working with their parents. The pay-off? Everyone will figure out more about digital life and add variety to the types of digital activities that they typically do.
Below are 12 family digital project summer suggestions — all work best if people work together — to consider for summer 2017.
Twelve 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 opportunity 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 will have fun designing mini-video games. Explore a wide range of “coding toys” by checking out my Coding Board and my Coding Toys and Robotics Board on Pinterest. 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. Check, also, this list of academic and public libraries that have makerspaces to see if one is near to you, and if you visit a museum this summer you may find that it has a makerspace. Most institutions with makerspaces welcome visitors.
- 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. Consider turning some of your picture albums into picture books or calendars (gifts or mementos for family members) at sites like iPhoto/iTunes, Shutterfly, or Blurb. Is there a relative who would love to have pictures uploaded into a digital frame?
- Clean up everyone’s digital profiles. Find out what happens when each family member does a personal Google search, and then check Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites where you share, upload, and leave comments. 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 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 one elder learned to use an iPad. You can also help older adults grow more savvy about fraud and scams, because fraudulent calls and offers cause many problems for elders.
- Work together to write a positive and constructive online review of a restaurant or other place that the family visits this summer. Critique what other people have written and talk about the responsibilities of a good reviewer.
- Create a digital device app inventory for each of the digital devices in the family and do some device housekeeping. 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?
- Become makers at home by figuring out how to construct family charging stations where all family devices can charge at night — away from bedrooms. Are there other needs that children can help with brainstorming ideas?
- 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.
- You can also enjoy museums in other locations without leaving home. Check out the resources on each institutilion’s website. For instance, if your child loves current events, check out the online Today’s Front Pages exhibit at the Newseum, a Washington, DC museum that focuses on freedom of the press and the other freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Every day the Newseum posts hundreds of newspaper front pages from around the world on its website.
- No matter how many devices live in your home, do take time to read aloud with your children at every age. Digital readers are great, but parents and kids reading together is so much better.
Summer projects help family members discover new connected world information and model positive behavior. Time spent working together offers lots of conversation opportunities — moments when information-sharing occurs because people are interested and not because of some worrisome 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.
Also, 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 Turkle in her book Reclaiming Conversations. Perhaps this summer you can help your children grown more skilled at talking with others.
Parenting 21st Century digital natives in the summer can be enlightening and fun, strengthen each individual’s digital health and wellness, and set the stage for thoughtful and respectful conversations when future connected world problems do occur.