As parents, we work continually to create balance in our own lives and in the lives of our kids. For many of us, summer is welcome relief from the often hectic school-sports-activities-homework treadmill that dominates the rest of the year.
While summer does give kids some well-earned freedom, it also gives them a lot more unstructured time, which can translate to hours of screen time. A recent nationwide survey found that 92 percent of parents believe their kids spend more time on their electronic devices during the summer than any other time of the year. Seventy-four percent said they wish they had a way to better control their kids’ Wi-Fi access.
“If you haven’t familiarized yourself with your internet provider’s technology, you may be missing out on some great features that could enhance your summer experiences and make it easier to manage your household Wi-Fi usage,” says Michelle Gilbert, vice president of public relations with Comcast – Heartland Region.
Xfinity provides ways for parents to monitor and limit their kids’ access to Wi-Fi in their homes. These tools, together with a plan for use that is discussed among the family, are often very effective at helping parents make sure their kids strike a balance between time spent offline – whether outside in the sunshine, in face-to-face conversations with friends, riding a bicycle or reading a book – and time spent with a device like a computer, a tablet or a mobile phone.
Here are some Wi-Fi tips for striking a balance with device time for your family this summer.
Create a plan that honors individual experiences. Your younger child is up with the sun, but your teen sleeps until late morning. Xfinity’s xFi is a platform that gives parents individualized control over how much Wi-Fi usage is allowed per child, down to individual devices.
“I can create profiles and assign devices to my kids’ profiles, then customize their usage,” Gilbert says. “An older child can get four hours online and that’s it, while a younger child can use their device between 11 and 1, and then they go play outside.”
Prioritize family time at home. With xFi, parents can also pause Wi-Fi to all devices for important face time with family – like dinnertime – whenever that might be, seven days a week.
This applies to parents, too! Thirty-nine percent of teens believe their parents spend too much time on a personal device, according to a 2019 study by Common Sense Media. Forty-four percent of teens feel parents are distracted at least once daily. Pausing Wi-Fi for everyone at dinnertime might be a good way to avoid this distraction.
Review device usage regularly. It’s a good idea to monitor network activity every once in a while. Are there any devices you may have overlooked? Parents who find their kids switch from tablet to TV once their Wi-Fi time is used up can also use xFi to pause Roku, Apple TV or other household devices on an individual basis, or all at once.
Protect your kids from the bad stuff. Older kids who are at home on their own during summer days, or younger ones who spend time with sitters while parents are at work, can innocently stumble across age-inappropriate content online and on the TV.
“Every provider has some form of parental controls, and it’s helpful to know what they are and to re-familiarize yourself with them every six months or so, since enhancements are being made,” Gilbert says.
Xfinity customers, for example, can use Safe Search to prevent age-inappropriate channels from appearing in searches on TV, and can use the xFi app to set parental controls to block unwanted URLs, even when away from home.
“Parents should still be parents, and no technology is perfect. It’s a good idea to look at your child’s browsing history from time to time to be aware of what they are searching for,” Gilbert says.
Give sleep a fighting chance. With 29 percent of teens sleeping with their phones in their beds, and 36 percent waking at least once each night to check their phone, a Wi-Fi bedtime could help growing kids get the sleep they need over the summer. Remember, pausing Wi-Fi overnight doesn’t pause cellular data usage, so talk with your kids about nighttime habits or even put devices in the common area of your home overnight – where text alerts won’t wake anyone at 2 a.m.
Maximize Wi-Fi when it makes sense. Summer vacation is a great time to recognize the value of using home Wi-Fi to download recorded shows to watch on roadtrips or at hotels and campgrounds where Wi-Fi might be suboptimal. Xfinity customers have access to the Xfinity Stream app that makes it easy to download DVR recordings and on demand content to your mobile device to watch in the car or in airplane mode.
“Check with your own video provider to learn about your ability to download content to watch on the go, so you don’t use expensive wireless data to stream videos,” Gilbert says.
“It’s about getting more value for the products and services you are paying for and rely on in the home. You should take full advantage of everything your provider has to offer.”
For more information on cable, internet and special offers, visit xfinity.com.