Creating A Digital Onlife Balance During Summer Break 2021
A Family Plan for Pre-Teens and Younger Teens
Caveat: The term “onlife world” was coined by Professor Luciano Floridi. Although many parents see a difference between the online and the offline world, today, youth see it as one world, or what Professor Luciano Floridi has coined the “onlife” world. Remember, not every day needs to be a tech day, but when it is the “power of three” can help find the balance when it comes to screen activity.
Now that the 2020/21 school year is coming to an end, parents are concerned that because of COVID, many outdoor summertime activities will once again be limited resulting in their child wanting to spend more time online, a concern for many parents. Over the past year, there has been a real push by some special interest groups advising parents to limit screen time, given what they believe to be the negative emotional, psychological, physical, and social effect it has on youth and teens. Important note – this is something that is not supported in the good academic peer-reviewed research, specific to balanced screen activity, that we speak to in our FREE web-book called Parenting in An Online World (1).
What are well-respected researchers saying specifically to youth and their technology use, “the question should not be how much time is your child spending online, but rather what are they doing with that time?” As Professor Sonia Livingstone has stated, the measurement shouldn’t be screen time, but rather their “screen activity” (2).
Too many parents still like to reminisce about what it was like when they were kids and apply those thoughts and feelings to how youth today should be spending their leisure time. I’m sure some of the parents reading this article can remember when their parent said, “when I was your age this is what I did during my summer holidays ….” However, when today’s parent was young, the internet, social media, and digital technology either did not exist or was very limited in their accessibility and use. Remember, the iPhone was first sold in 2007, so it has only been around now for about fourteen years. This generation of youth is the first generation to be raised in a world where they know nothing but digital. This fact is why attempting to apply past norms and behaviours from our youth, specific to leisure time, has very little relevance to today’s teen “onlife” world. As we share with parents:
“When we share our concerns with our kids about their onlife world, we should do so in a way that ties into where they are today, and is relevant to their life and appeals to their intelligence and experience.”
We are not saying that parents should allow unrestrained free-range consumption of technology during the summer break, rather we are suggesting that a balanced use of technology, the internet, social media, and online gaming should be the goal.
The Power of Three:
The power of three is embedded in many aspects of our lives. In literature, for example, we have “Goldilocks and The Three Bears” whose porridge was #1 too hot, #2 too cold, or #3 just right. In sporting events like the Olympics, there are three medals that are awarded, #1 gold, #2 Silver, and #3 bronze. In Christianity, they have the Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost. In construction, a triangle with 3 equal sides is the most stable platform to build upon. This is why many bridges and buildings utilize triangles’ in their architecture, given that they provide significant structural integrity. In music, the third note of every scale provides the basic harmony that humans find pleasing.
Humans love choices, but not too many choices. Have you ever noticed that in many game shows, the contestant can pick what is behind curtain #1, curtain #2, or curtain #3? Again, demonstrating the power of three.
Our suggestion, and the reason for this article, let’s gamify screen activity using the power of three, and apply it to youth and their onlife world to help them find a tech balance this summer.
So, how can we apply the power of three to Sonia Livingston’s concept of screen activity? First, let’s break down the use of technology by teens into three categories:
#1: Social Use
This category includes using social media to stay connected with friends via text messaging, or interacting with their peers on social networks like Instagram, or engaging in an activity they enjoy, like online gaming.
#2: Physical / Active Use
This is where a teen can integrate technology to become more physically active both inside and outside the home using apps such as Ring Fit, an exercising action role-playing game for the Nintendo Switch, Pokémon-Go, or Geocaching using a mobile device.
#3: Creative & Educational Use
This is where youth use technology to learn coding (why just play a game when they can learn how to build one using coding), develop a personal website (create their own digital branding that they can control for sport, college, university, and job opportunities and to share their interests with others), learning how to type (which will allow you to code faster), create “how-to” videos, or to even watch educational shows and documentaries to increase their awareness of the onlife world.
Now that we have these three identified categories, let place them into a ranking, specific to daily online activity that we are recommending as a starting point, using the power of three:
#1: Creative & Educational Use (3hrs +/-)
#2: Social Use (2hrs +/-)
#3: Physical / Active Use (1hr +/-)
This adds up to a total of six hours per tech day, four hours of which are encouraging teens to become producers and creators of content, and also to become more physically active through the integration of technology; only two hours are dedicated to passive consumption to connect with friends, or for the purposes of relaxation & fun - what we like to call “digital bubble gumming”. Let’s be honest, we all need time to decompress, especially during COVID, and technology can be a great adjunct to making this happen. However, we find that too many parents utilize technology as a consumption-based digital pacifier with their kids, which is never healthy and should be avoided this summer.
Once you frame the concept of the power of three specific to their screen activity with your child, focusing on how it allows them up to six hours of tech time each day, and sometimes more if okayed by you the parent. This will help your child to understand what a balanced onlife approach to technology should be this summer, and why.
If you consider that most youth, during the summer break, like to sleep in late and go to bed late, most will average about twelve hours of “wake” time each day. If you adopt the power of three, specific to screen activity, that means that the child still has six-plus hours of unused wake time for:
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner – which we recommend to be tech-free
Chores – to be done before screen activity is permitted
Engaging in other personal and family activities both inside and outside the home;
learning how to skateboard or play basketball, learning how to play the guitar, or go for a family walk, hike, bike ride, family drive (we recommend that the car should be a tech-free zone unless going on a long trip) or watching a movie together as a family without phones, iPads, or laptops present.
None of the times associated with each category is set in stone, they need to remain flexible to meet the individual needs of each family. You could even split the times throughout the day. As an example, when it comes to the creative and educational use of technology, you can provide one hour in the morning, one hour in the afternoon, and one hour in the early evening. In fact, some days you may allow more time for “social activity”, but this should be the exception, rather than the norm for youth and younger teens. Remember, we want to concentrate on the creative and educational use of technology, rather than treating it like a digital babysitter or digital pacifier.
Again, we are not saying that everyday needs to be a full tech day, but when it is, the “power of three” is a good rule of thumb to help guide our kids. If your child has reached the 2hr social activity limit, then unless they now switch over to the creative, educational and physical use of their technology, then there is no more screen activity, unless the parent gives permission. Again, we would recommend that this permission is the exception rather than the rule.
Quickly establishing a balanced onlife routine will be important this summer, especially because many families will still be physically distancing because of COVID. Before your kids make the passive social consumption of technology a habitual routine this summer, use the power of three to help create a flexible and balanced onlife screen activity standard.
Digital Food For Thought
The White Hatter
Creative & Educational:
Free Web Site Creation:
Free Typing Lessons:
Active Promoting Apps:
Nintendo Ring Fit: