Both my parents worked when I was a little kid. Sometimes they worked two jobs each. It’s just what they had to do. So, when I got a little older I was one of those latch-key kids you used to hear about. My brother and I would get off the bus, make a snack, turn on the TV and veg out. Sometimes I’d open up my notebook and do homework while watching Brady Bunch.
The fact of the matter is, unless you just chunk your TV, smartphones, laptops and iPads, then your kid is going to have some screen time. There’s just no way around it. One day you will be sitting somewhere you need to have quiet and you will push your iPhone in front of your kid to play a game. You will buy the van with the DVD player in it and watch movies for 12 minutes on the way to church. It’s just gonna happen.
And I don’t think screen time is evil. I think its nice to veg out in front of the TV every once in awhile. My kids learn lots from Word World and Veggie Tales. I think it’s fine to play a game on your iPad–it probably promotes fine motor skills. I think it’s OK to let kids play on the computer–there are tons of great sites for kids.
The Bible warns us to limit all this sugary sweet stuff:
If you find honey, eat just enough— too much of it, and you will vomit. Proverbs 25:16 NIV
Wow. Can you imagine THAT object lesson?! It’s a graphic picture but a perfect one for your kids. Even if you are strict on the kinds of programs (only faith-based movies, only non-violent games, only educational shows) your kids devour, you still need to be mindful of the AMOUNT of time spent on it.
So, what do we do?
I don’t know if we’re strict or not. I’m not telling you so you can copy what we do–I’m just disclosing so you can weigh what I say!
TV: The kids watch 1 half hour show a day. This is usually during breakfast. Lazy Saturdays we’ll watch two shows.
Phones: We don’t let our kids play games on our phones (or iPad) unless we’re on a road trip.
Computer: The kids like to play games on the computer and watch Jelly Telly. I limit it to about 15-30 minutes at a time. And I’d say they only get online about once every two weeks.
Movies: We rarely watch movies–at home or the theater. Maybe once every three months?
So, what should we do?
I have been reading a fabulous series by my friend Natalie at the Messy Mom about the hyperconnected life we live. She linked to a very interesting video featuring Phil Vischer (founder of Veggie Tales and What’s In The Bible?) on Fox News. He was called as an expert to discuss a recent study that shows SpongeBob SquarePants makes kids dumb. (<—that just makes me laugh because uhm…YEAH.) Anyway, the study (and Phil’s point) is that kids’ brains do not respond well to the fast-paced hyper-active craziness of SpongeBob (and other shows) when it comes to learning and internalizing emotions. So, if you’re trying to teach compassion, love, joy (read: ALL THE STUFF WE WANT TO TEACH OUR KIDS) then you need to slow down. You don’t need the bells and whistles.
Yes, we live in a media-saturated, fast-paced, always-connected society. And I’m sure it will only get moreso as our kids get older. But let’s take a step now and limit their intake of this “honey”. Let’s slow it down just a little. I’m not suggesting unplugging your DVD player. Just take one little step back. One less show. One less game. One less well-we’re-in-the-car or it-will-keep-him-quiet. And instead add one more slow, quiet conversation, activity or story to help our kids taste and see that the LORD is good!
What’s your family’s philosophy on media?
photo source: MDB Photo