Twenty years ago, when I was a teacher, I was surprised to learn how much TV my students watched. Today with the addition of video games and home computers, the “opportunities” for screen-type activities seems unending. Personally, I think the TV, the computer, and even some video games can be fine instruments for entertainment or education. The computer can also be a great tool for communication. Sadly, however, it seems that for many children, some type of “screen activity” is their most constant companion.
We introduced our boys to TV at the same time. Terrell, age 4 was intrigued; Ellison, age 3, could have cared less. A few years later we bought our first computer game for them – “Reader Rabbit”. And eventually we gave in and bought them each a Gameboy video game. In the beginning each device was something new for our child or our family to do. Eventually, each device became an issue or source of disagreement between my child and me. It wasn’t the device’s fault.
We need to frequently ask ourselves 3 questions about our utilization of screen time with our kids: How do we use it? How much do we use it? Why do we use it?
The way that we respond to that sentence can help us determine why we currently don’t have screen boundaries with our child or why our boundaries are what they are.
It’s funny, what starts as a fun new activity for us to share with our child can so easily become something so different. For example:
A. Have these devices become the babysitter, the substitute for us or a friend, or a way to pass time?
B. Have these devices become “the competition” within our own home? Does our child want to be with them more than with us? Have we unintentionally conditioned our kids this way?
C. Are these devices enjoyed by our family members – but in healthy proportion to nurturing our family relationships?
Hmmm… at times it’s been “A” when I was trying to fix supper. And because of “A”, I’ve experienced “B”. Although, sometimes, I’ve wrestled with “B” because I’d give in and give them more screen time, and then guess what they wanted? Yep, even more screen time! “C”, of course, is the best choice…
So, how do we get there? How do we undo what we’ve allowed up to now?
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given to him.” (James 1.5)