Limit Screen Time {31 Days: Day 6}

limit screen time

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?

{2014 Update: The kids don’t watch TV every day because of school. I’d say they watch 1-2 shows per week. The kids occasionally play on the iPad when the other one is in an after school class. (ie. Asa plays while Lydia is in ballet) and maybe once per week when we’re at the gym. They don’t play on the computer at all unless it’s a school assignment. Movies remain about the same.}

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


  1. I love this post! I agree, there is no way around it. I monitor and limit t.v. time (although many parents would think I’m pretty generous with t.v. time). As far as show such as Spongebob- we avoid those all together in our home. There are so many great educational shows that my daughter LOVES, so why bother with the brainless ones!

  2. I remember when I worked full-time and Annalyn was in daycare. And younger. It was so easy to restrict her TV time, and I was so proud of myself. But honestly? Then, we just didn’t HAVE TIME for her to watch TV…plus, she wasn’t interested in it!

    Now, though, I consider it a good day if she watches well under two hours. My goal is to never let her watch more than two hours. And I KNOW that isn’t good enough. We’re getting better, and I want to starting lowering that amount more. But I’ll admit that TV-watching got OUT OF HAND at the end of summer. I just ran out of energy and ideas for other things to do. *sigh*

    • I know. TV is definitely the easiest thing to do. Asa has JUST gotten to the point where he even likes TV so I can see how it would be easy to stick him in front of it (especially on those days Lydia is at school).

  3. As the new school year started, we made a rule of no electronic gaming or shows Sunday thru Thursday evening. The only exception is if you are watching a show as a family that momma chose (rare). It took some adjustment, but now is just the norm.

  4. we watch way too much- but we also temper it with a LOT of outside time- working on that aspect of our lives – (it’s my fault for being on the computer) 🙂 beautiful pic – love B&W

  5. We limit, but we need and want to limit more.

    I will def. implement some of your ideas and will read each link. Thanks for the motivation

  6. My son is 2 and this is something that we really need to crack down on. My husband is such a media junkie that if he’s home, the TV is on regardless if he’s watching it or not (I’d prefer to have the tv off!). We’ve gotten in the habit of having the tv on when our son is up (almost always watching VT), but he normally doesn’t sit and watch it unless he’s not feeling well- typically he’s running around playing. It’s more or less background noise. Yes, we have some work to do with this. 🙂

    And this is off topic sorta, but everytime I hear Phil Vischer talk, I don’t know how he could do all the voices he does! Bob the Tomato, Mr. Lunt, Mr. Nezzer, Archibald Asparagus- etc. Crazy! 😀 (yes, I’m a closet Veggie Tales fan :))


  7. There is a very nice book called “The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers” that you might like, which talks about his personal faith, and the lessons and ways he taught children through his show. He had a lot of interesting thoughts about the role of television and the way that children learn.

    I like Mister Rogers and Mister Dressup (Canadian 80s TV show) for kids, because they are slow (but not boring) shows that teach children, and the hosts also talk TO the children. There aren’t 5 things happening at once on the screen. Plus, they were 2 of my favourites when I was a kid. LOL

    We only have 1 TV, and it’s downstairs, while we spend most of out time upstairs. My 1.5 year old rarely sees the TV, and my 4.5 year old gets to watch a half hour to an hour a few times a week (which is usually when the baby is napping and I’m trying to get a few things done). And then there are the days when I let her watch a whole Disney movie because I need to be on a conference call… lol

  8. This is great! My daughters are 9 and 12 and only get an hour of tv a day. They do have ipods that they can play on at night just before they go to bed. We saw this summer that we were lax on letting them watch some extra tv and we didn’t like the attitudes we were seeing, so we got a little stricter! Good stuff to think about!

  9. Thanks for linking. I agree with the first comment as far as when I am debating whether or not to let my four year old watch a certain show I think about how many better shows there are and better things to do for that matter, and so far he’s never felt deprived!

  10. This is just the advice I need. I have a kid that is so hungry for entertainment. I am guilty of letting him watch TV at least an hour a day. He is watching cartoons now by the way. Too much of anything is bad and I will definitely make an effort in providing him with discipline.

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