Dr. Patty Russo
Ways to Increase Social Activities Over the Summer
Summer is officially here! For a lot of teens that means hanging out with friends, sleeping in, binge watching Netflix, or mindlessly scrolling through social media for hours (which can be frustrating for parents). A study by Common Sense Media in 2015 found that the average youth between ages 8-12 spend about 6 hours on some form of media and teens ages 13-18 spend about 9 hours… per day! We can imagine that these numbers will increase during summertime.
Teens do benefit from the break from homework, studying, and the additional responsibilities they have during the school year. However, it is important to encourage involvement in activities to help them avoid falling into a pattern of isolation or excessive screen time. Limits need to be placed on media use to ensure that it does not take place of sleep, physical activity, socialization, and other behaviors associated with health.
Below are some ideas to help your teen keep a healthy level of activity and interaction during the summer.
Volunteer – Participating in activities that give back to others is linked with improved self-esteem and empathy for others. Local volunteer opportunities can be found through Volunteer Match, Pinellas County, your local YMCA, and Hillsborough County.
Go Outdoors – Research shows that spending time outdoors can be beneficial for well-being, including opportunity for physical activity, improved mood and concentration, and exposure to vitamin D. Setting up times to visit the beach, go kayaking, visit a skate park, or attending a local Farmer’s Market are all great ways to break the pattern of being sedentary at home and becoming physical and interacting with others.
Family-Friendly Tampa Bay lists over 75 fun activities (indoors and outdoors) for kids around Tampa Bay, including discounted movies, bowling, museums, and volunteer activities.
Designate Media-Free Times – Families can set specific times (e.g. dinner, driving, game night) or specific locations (e.g. bedroom, bathroom) where both parents and children (yes, adults need to put the phones down too) can spend time together without the distraction of technology. This will allow for increased communication and positive time spent together.
Take a Class – Usually summer means fewer responsibilities, which makes it a great time to learn and explore new topics or areas of interest. You can take a cooking class, learn how to code, try out yoga, or learn how to paint. The Pinellas County Library and Hillsborough County Library offers classes, courses, and activities for all ages.
Monitor Changes in Behavior – Sleeping in and watching more TV are expected during the summer. Parents should keep an eye on behaviors that start to interfere with daily functioning. For example, if your teen sleeps most of the day, appears to be down or irritable much of the time, or avoids spending time with others, then these changes may be a warning signs for greater difficulty with the transition into summer and need for extra support.
If you feel concerned with any changes in your teen’s behavior, contact Dr. Patty for a free consultation on how therapy may be a good fit over the summer.
The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tween and Teens
Pinellas County Volunteer Opportunities
Hillsborough County Volunteer Opportunities