Getting your family back on a school-year routine after a summer of staying up late, playing on the computer, and watching TV all day (and perhaps all night, if you caught the SpongeBob marathon) isn't easy.
If you loosened your screen-time rules this summer, you're in good company. According to a Harris Interactive poll, about half of all parents say their kids watch more TV, play more video games, surf the Web more, and watch more movies during the summer months.
But since a good night's sleep and limited media are key contributors to school achievement, somebody has to get things back on track. These five strategies can help you get a jump on things.
Have a last blast. Plan one final session of media indulgence. Have a family movie night, a video game day, an iTunes party -- something that says "so long, summer." A media send-off gets everyone ready for the restrictions to come.
Prepare your kids.A week before school starts, start enforcing bedtime, and turn off the TV, games, and electronic devices at least an hour before hitting the sack. Kids and teens need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep to perform well in school -- and the stimulation of media makes it hard for them to settle down.
Raid the library. Go for the books, but also find out whether your local branch offers programs for kids -- like puppet shows, reading hours, or other activities. It's like a little baby step to school.
Create a school-year media plan.Take out a calendar and work with your kids to create a weekly schedule that includes homework, chores, and activities -- plus TV, games, movies, etc. Kids don't always understand the concept of "Thursday," but if they see their activities written down, they know what to expect and when to expect it.
Remember you're their role model. Sneak your BlackBerry under the table, and your kids will catch you. They learn from what you do more than from what you say, so make sure that you're demonstrating balance with your media habits, too.