Setting computer time limits and teaching responsible viewing habits goes beyond setting an arbitrary number of hours of screen viewing. It is an opportunity to teach our children the value of time.
When we plan and schedule, we are managing the most precious of all commodities, time. Time, marked by each breath, is a beautiful gift given to us by our Creator. We spend a lifetime learning to cherish it, and it seems another lifetime trying to teach our children to value it. We sow the seeds of time in hope of a fruitful reward. Our moments of despair are often characterized by moments when we realize we are squandering life’s nonrenewable resource of time.
David prays to the Lord in Psalms,
“So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.”
Learning to count and use the moments God gives me, cultivates a wise heart.
And in James it says,
“Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. James 4:14
Yup, my lifespan is just a vapor at best.
What we fill our calendars with requires careful consideration.
Time is ticking.
“How did it get so late so soon?
It’s night before it’s afternoon.
December is here before it’s June.
My goodness, how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?” Dr. Seuss
However, I find myself part of a generation that is living life through an online existence. And I see the generation following me, embracing that online existence with more fervor than ever before. One of my sons put it well; we spend more and more time creating our persona through social media and/or gaming than talking to the people around us. It seems our image gets lost in our own cyber creations.
Right now teachers and even home educators are locked in a battle with their students. The battle is between coming off of large doses of summer screen viewing versus entering back into real social interaction and engaging in activities that promote the love of learning.
It’s a hot topic.
But here’s the bottom line question;
How much screen viewing is simply too much or out of balance?
I think it’s a personal family decision. But I do believe that we need to be informed before a decision is made.
Five Main Points to Consider
Point Number One: What brain scans are showing us.
Psychology Today raised interesting points in two posts Too Much Screen Time Damages the Brain and Screen Time is Making Kids Moody, Crazy, and Lazy. As a mom, I could identify with the points made in each article. We may not know how screen viewing is changing the brain, but from the posted comments and experience, we seem to be in agreement that it does. Anything that “changes” my child’s brain, requires at the very least a second look.
Point Number Two: Time spent in one place means time not spent in other places.
I think this point is one of the most compelling points to consider. About ten years ago (2006) around the dinner table, we were generating our own family screen viewing rules. What sparked our conversation? A study had emerged stating the average screen viewing time for children between 2-18 had risen from 3 to 5 ½ hours. (In 2016, it has risen to 7 1/2 hours) One of our sons asked the question, how much time would that be over a lifetime? Good question! In the spirit of a true homeschool family, the answer was, let’s do the math! The table you see below displays the hard-to-ignore data.
At age 70, you might ask yourself, “What would I have done with an additional 20 years of life if I chose not to watch a screen for seven hours a day?” The excuse of “I don’t have the time to (fill in the blank).” fades away.
Point Number Three: Consider the side effects of hours of screen viewing
•Teaches a child to sit instead of being active (leads to obesity and poor health)
•Disrupts sleeping patterns ( backlighting on screens interferes with deep sleep)
•Impedes social interaction with others (The kind where you are face to face with a human)
•Desensitization to violence and horror (violence simply becomes…no big deal)
•Exposes a child to weighty adult themes and sex out of the context of marriage. (images accidentally pop up and commercials/advertisements can’t be regulated)
“The new report from the American Pediatric Association estimates that for every hour a child under 2 spends in front of a screen, he or she spends about 50 minutes less interacting with a parent, and about 10 percent less time in creative play.” They also add, screen viewing is to be avoided for infants and children under the age of two and no more than two hours a day for children ages 3-18.
Teachers and youth leaders are also noticing the side effects of screen viewing in even the smallest of its citizens.
“I have spoken to a number of nursery teachers who have concerns over the increasing numbers of young pupils who can swipe a screen but have little or no manipulative skills to play with building blocks or the like, or the pupils who cannot socialize with other pupils but whose parents talk proudly of their ability to use a tablet or smartphone.” http://www.bbc.com/news/education-27040957
“Teachers talk of the pupils who come into their classrooms after spending most of the previous night playing computer games and whose attention span is so limited they may as well not be there, or the pupils who wander around at break or lunch glued to their tablets or smartphones.” http://www.bbc.com/news/education-27040957
Point Number Four: There are positive aspects of time spent viewing a screen.
We must sift through that which provides little to no value with what provides benefits to our families. I am a fan of technology. There are wonderful educational benefits to having it all at your fingertips. We have some of our best dinner time discussions with Google as a guest providing us with information to discuss, ideas to consider, and different ways to explore different points of view. We also love learning from YouTube educational videos. Some of them are just amazing! I love sharing the latest pics of my children with my mom. And It’s fun to text back and forth with my hubby. Communicating what time the family dinner is with eight kids through one email-priceless. My husband even bought a couple, yes a couple of pallets of computer parts to encourage the kids to build their own computer!
And after all, I work/serve at Here to Help Learning. We rely on the internet and a screen to deliver our effective writing program. However, when designing HTHL we made sure of one thing. All of HTHL’s programs are designed for a relationship-based experience. What does that mean? It means we strategically placed “pause screens” where the student and teacher pause the film and have a face-to-face discussion. I believe this is where real education, real mentorship, real discipleship happen. I think it is important to use technology as a catalyst for great educational discussions and learning.
Point Number Five: Your screen viewing habits greatly affect your children’s habits.
Before you start making screen viewing rules to govern your family’s habits, why not try a screen viewing fast for a week? I love the thoughts and ideas sparked in HEDUA’s article, When to Walk Away. During your fast, record your observations and feelings. What did it give you? What did you feel was missing in your life? What changed? What activities replaced your screen viewing time? Did you sleep better? Discuss your findings with your family. You may even want to do a screen fast as a family.
Our screen viewing rules evolved over the years through prayer and many discussions with our children. We even went long periods without screens in our lives. We considered the five points as we designed the rules for our family. It worked well for our family. Each family dynamic is so different so keep that in mind. Your rules will look different than ours. But it’s nice to share and glean ideas.
The Mora’s Screen Viewing Rules
•Saturday through Thursday: no screen viewing unless it’s educational or we are watching a movie together as a family.
•No one answers a phone during dinner.(except emergencies)
•Our kids receive a personal cell phone for their eighth grade graduation. (internet not included)
•All passwords are public.
•Friday is “Friend Night”. Unlimited amount of screen viewing/computer games are permitted! Our kids could invite as many friends as they wished. I cooked and set out a huge buffet of food. It was not uncommon to have between 8-15 additional kids. Often the older boys set up a LAN party in our living room. Lights needed to be out at 1:00am. Yes, they all slept over. Girls in one room, boys in the other. Parents on guard! We provided breakfast. Pick up was at 10:00am. If any of their friends were left after 10:00am they became part of the Saturday morning Mora mega house clean up!
Our rules were set not to control but to teach our children to value the God-given gift of time and the relationships in their lives.
From Our Home to Yours,