Modern technology has given new meaning to the sentiment that holidays are a great time for people to recharge and reconnect. With the school holidays upon us, many parents are justifiably afraid that their teen is going to spend the majority of their school break immersed in the Internet. Yet, while it’s important to encourage them to unplug over the break, it’s also worthwhile remembering that school is a social and collaborative space, and that staying in contact with friends via social media is a legitimate way for teens to preserve their social connections.
In our digitally interconnected society, spending time with friends can mean catching up over coffee or catching up over wifi. Online friendships are as important to teenagers as their offline ones – it’s simply a matter of striking a balance and maintaining healthy screen habits. To help ensure that teenagers are making the best of both their on-and-offline worlds, we’ve compiled a list of school holiday activities for teenagers, both real world and digital.
1. Organise a camping trip
Camping is a great real world way to ignite a sense of adventure and forcibly detach one’s self from the convenience of daily life and, in particular, technology. For older teenagers, it might be possible to go on a small road trip with friends (and perhaps an older sibling or parent) and live amongst nature for a weekend. If heading away isn’t possible for younger teens, then why not let them set up a tent in the backyard?
Age is a huge variable when it comes to planning school holiday activities for teenagers. Entrusting your teen with new responsibilities and independence as they approach adulthood is a crucial part of their development, but it’s also important to establish boundaries. Trust and ongoing communication play a huge role in navigating this terrain, but if you’re not sure what age is appropriate for certain independent activities and behaviours, then visit the Australian parenting website for some helpful advice.
2. Have a movie marathon
While you don’t want the kids spending their entire holiday break indoors, Australian summers can be hot, and sometimes it’s best to simply spend the day in the comfort of air conditioning! Movie marathons can be a great school holiday activity for teenagers to do with either family or friends. The festive season can be nostalgic, so maybe suggest rewatching some old childhood favourites? Or spend Christmas Eve watching your most loved Christmas movies? The holiday period is often all about going to different places, seeing people, and getting stuff done – so every now and again it’s okay to give teenagers permission to do nothing.
For expert advice on whether or not the films that your teen wants to watch are age appropriate, visit Common Sense Media.
3. Go to the beach
The best way to survive the scorching summer sun is to spend the day in the water. A day at the beach or local swimming pool is guaranteed to be fun for kids of any age. It’s also worth searching the Internet to see if there are any little-known hotspots nearby, perhaps a hidden waterfall or snorkel spot.
4. Play board games
In the age of smartphone apps, board games may seem archaic – but interactive games like Articulate, Cluedo, and Settlers of Catan are great for encouraging teenagers to interact, think strategically, and have fun. Challenge them to a game of Monopoly yourself, or ask them to invite their friends over for a tournament.
5. Fundraise for pocket money
Certain school holiday activities for teenagers are likely to cost money. If your teen is too young to have a summer job but old enough to learn about financial responsibility, then you could make them earn their pocket money for the holiday period. You may want to establish a list of chores, and assign each different task a dollar value. Or, you could let them come up with their own business initiative. Perhaps cleaning cars in the neighbourhood, or walking the neighbour’s dog?
The Internet has made it a lot easier for people to upskill themselves. Youtube is filled with life-hacks and DIY videos that address all of the questions you never knew you wanted the answer to. Encourage your teenager to take an interest in learning a new skill, such as playing an instrument or sewing, or even learning a new language through an app like Duolingo.
7. Be inspired by boredom
It’s important to ensure that growing minds have access to tools and toys and stimulation. However, a little bit of boredom can be equally beneficial to establishing creativity and independence. Imagination isn’t just for little kids – so try to encourage your teen to explore their world imaginatively. For an older child, this could mean redecorating their bedroom, or using household supplies to create or build something, or even starting an online blog or vlog channel. The Internet offers a great opportunity for children and teenagers to create and share unique content, but sometimes we need to take away everyday distractions in order to truly tap into our inner creativity and playfulness.
The key to maintaining healthy screen habits is to find a balance of real world and digital school holiday activities for teenagers. That balance might look different for every family, or possibly even for every child within a family.
If your teen spends an excessive amount of time online gaming or messaging their friends, applying a blanket ban on technology for the entire holiday period probably isn’t a feasible solution. Instead, you may want to focus on when it okay to use technology, and when it isn’t. (Sometimes saying yes is more effective than saying no.) Try introducing Internet rules and specific tech-free times; perhaps your teen has to do physical activities outside for a minimum of 1-hour a day? Or they have to surrender their electronic devices before going to bed to ensure they don’t stay up all night? Or you could make the whole family commit to a device free dinner challenge?
It’s also easy to simply rely on enacting rules that prohibit the use of technology, but these are far more likely to work if you also help your teen to come up with other things to do. For more information and suggestions on school holiday activities for teenagers, see the resources provided below: