Young families are swimming against a tsunami of cultural pressure when it comes to screen usage. Never in the history of humanity have families had such pressure on them to become and stay disconnected from each other. There is an epidemic of transferring our connection from human beings to the screen in our hands and it begins at infancy. This is a war we all need to fight but especially young families. Here are a four ideas to help you out:
- Don’t give your children a screen of their own. I know for some of you this is already a “done deal” and we will talk about that later, but for those who have babies…just DON’T do it.
It is far easier to keep a handle on screens that belong to you and not to your child. You can check usage without feeling guilty because, after all, it is your screen. You get to put boundaries around a screen you own and are letting a child use.
- If you have already given screens: tablets, cell phones and allowed TVs in your children’s rooms, all is NOT lost! It is still your responsibility to keep your child safe and healthy.
Try this: During a time when there is NO conflict going on in your family, call a meeting to talk over your family’s screen use. Be open and honest about your own screen usage. Talk over what healthy screen use would look like. Set some boundaries. Here are some examples:
*No cell phones at the dining room table during meals.
*When guests are present, screens are not.
*No screen time before homework is done.
*No devices in bedrooms at night while they are supposed to be sleeping. (Pediatricians have found that children who have their devices in their rooms at night suffer from insomnia, lethargy in school, poor concentration and grades and also are more prone to depression. They are exhausted for cryin out loud!)
*For every hour of reading an actual book, helping out around the house, or service to others, they receive an hour of screen time.
- Make your family attractive. Find ways to enjoy each other. Get them involved in serving in the church or other outreaches. Have fun together. Make “joy” a characteristic of your family’s personality. Have a “tech free weekend” and allow your children to help plan it.
- Don’t be afraid to look into what your kids are looking at online. Talk to them about the dangers of porn and online predators. Thirty years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of telling you to have conversations about porn or sexual predators with your young children, but now in this current climate…YOU HAVE TO! If your child has a screen or their friends have screens, they WILL be exposed to either or both. This is not a privacy issue…this is a safety and emotional health issue. You have to protect them and you have to make them self-protecting. There is no other choice.
Here is a section of Scripture that believe it or not has A LOT to say about screen time when you truly think about it:
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give to you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6: 5-9
Did you know that neural pathways are impressions on the brain? Yes, they are! Whatever we do over and over creates impressions in our brain that become basically freeways for those thoughts or behaviors.
So then the questions need to be asked: What is making the greatest impression on them? What are they doing when they are at home? On the road? When they go to bed? What is the first thing they reach for when they wake up? What is “bound around their forehead”? A pair of headphones for the greater part of every day and on into the night? What do they see day after day and hear over and over again and again? If you took their screen from them, would they have a crazed meltdown? Would you?
Is it any wonder that the Board of American Pediatrics has come out advising parents to keep their infants and toddlers from the continual usage of screens. They know that these impressionable growing young brains are laying down foundational, extremely important neural pathways. Instead, they want young children playing, creating, listening, and thinking.
So here is the bottom line. Your kids are probably already addicted to screens…YOU are probably already addicted to screens. But this is something that can be changed. It is a choice. It won’t be easy if your family is addicted to screens, but the effort you put into breaking this bondage on your family will be WELL worth it in the long run.
I hope this gives you and your family someplace to start the conversation on healthy screen use!
Blessings to you and yours!
PS. For a little clarity and balance, I am not saying there isn’t a place for a screen in the life of stressed out mom who just needs an hour of peace to regain her sanity. Screens are part of our reality. We just need to be careful that they don’t steal from us what is most dear.
Women’s Ministry Director, Desert Vineyard Church
Cherri and her husband Peter have 6 kids and have lead the Parenting Classes at the Desert Vineyard for over 30 years.