Raising children these days can be difficult, especially when it comes to technology. With so many gadgets and devices at their disposal, it can be hard to know how much screen time is too much. And as we all know, too much screen time can have serious consequences for kids’ health and development.
Kids who spend too much time in front of screens can experience a variety of negative consequences. For example, they can develop problems with their eyesight, become obese, or suffer from poor social skills. Additionally, it has been proven that kids who spend too much time on screens are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety[i]. The Bible has a lot to say about moderation and glorifying God in the small things (1 Corinthians 10:31). This should prompt us to ask questions such as:
- How does God feel about my kids’ technology use?
- What does it look like to use screens in moderation?
- Could we have a Screen Sabbath every week to have a day-long break from screens?
- What are some ways that I can limit my family’s screen time without feeling like I’m depriving them of their fun?
Rules and limits lead to moderation
It’s important to set some rules about when and how much time your kids can spend in front of screens. For example, your kids should not be allowed to watch TV or use their phones during dinner, and they should try to get outside more often than not. You may also consider limiting the amount of time they spend on gaming units, tablets, and phones.
To help them learn self-control, you may want to try limiting the amount of time that your kids are allowed to spend on screens each day. You might consider setting a limit of one or two hours, or even only allowing extra screen time on the weekends. Of course, you should feel free to adjust these limits based on your children’s ages and what works best for your family.
As examples, here are some rules and limits I have set on my own kids’ screen time:
- We only watch a TV show or movie once or twice a week, mostly on the weekends.
- We encourage self-play instead of “screen play” for our kids by giving them activities and hobbies that they can do with their hands instead of on a screen.
- We do not own any gaming consoles (not that they are bad—we simply have made a choice not to have them in our home as a way to limit screen time addiction).
- Any games on the iPad or iPhone must be below their age in rating, and only ones that we approve of in advance—usually after I read a review.
- The only games we allow in our home are those without chat features.
- No devices are allowed at the family dinner table.
- No devices are allowed in bedrooms.
- We use “allowance” systems (mostly during school breaks) for the kids based on their age and maturity. I explain this in full in my book Raising Screen Time Kids.
Talking to kids about the dangers of technology
It’s important to talk to your kids about the dangers of too much screen time. Explain why it’s important to have a healthy balance and make sure they understand the negative consequences of overusing technology.
Some potential consequences of spending too much time watching TV or using a mobile device include:
- Negative effects on eyesight
- Obesity and weight gain
- Poor social skills due to lack of interacting with others face to face
- Higher rates of depression, worry, fear, and panic
- Always feeling “FOMO”—the fear of missing out—and comparing their life to others’, breeding jealousy
- Seeing images that they cannot forget
- Being pursued by predators or peers with sinful intentions
We must remember: a large amount of screen time leads to a multitude of opportunities for our sinful behavior and the evil intentions of others to take hold.
We should share with our child or teen that it is important to get outside and do things like running, playing sports with their friends, and biking. Not only will they be getting exercise, but they’ll be able to socialize with their friends and have some fun.
The importance of a healthy balance when it comes to technology
As parents, it is important to teach our children the importance of a healthy relationship with technology. This means that they should not be allowed to use screens all the time, but should be allowed to use them in moderation.
On the other hand, if kids don’t have any screen time at all, they might miss out on important educational opportunities. It is therefore important to find a balance that works for your family. You may want to try setting rules about how much screen time kids are allowed each day, or you may want to allow them to use screens only on certain days of the week.
It’s more important than ever to set rules and limits on screen time and to get our kids outside and active. The Bible says that we should practice moderation in all things (Titus 1:15), and it’s clear that too much screen time can be dangerous for our kids. Let’s work together to create healthy boundaries for our children when it comes to technology so they can enjoy its many benefits without becoming slaves to screens.
I go into all of this in more detail in my book, Raising Screen Time Kids: Biblical principles for parenting in a device-saturated world. I hope you will grab a copy and read more about the good, the bad and the ugly of screen time. I believe we can raise responsible digital citizens who glorify God in the little things of life.
[i]Jean M.Twenge, Preventive Medicine Reports, Associations between screen time and lower psychological well-being among children and adolescents: Evidence from a population-based study, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335518301827 accessed on January 7, 2022