Will you go with me on a trip? It’s a trip of the imagination. We’re going to travel back to a day when devices and their tiny glowing screens didn’t dictate our every move. Back before “screen time” was a commonly used word.
Can you fathom a time like this? If, like me, you were born in the 80’s or earlier, you will remember it. But if you were born in the 90’s and beyond, imagining a world without devices might be a stretch. Let me let you young’uns in on a little secret: Somehow, we all survived.
We spent summer days outside with the neighborhood kids building forts and making alliances. Mom would yell down the street that dinner was on the table, and then back out we would go until darkness called us home.
We had no idea what our cousins who lived in another state were up to until we saw them at the annual family reunion or (gasp!) actually wrote them a letter or called them on the phone.
We were bored during school vacations and it was our own job to come up with something to do.
Forgive me for stating the obvious, but this is definitely not the world that I’m raising my three kids in today. Nor is it the world that I call home. Everything these days is fast-paced and purpose-driven. My kids always want to be entertained — either by me or by the seemingly ever-present device. That ever-present device? I’m realizing that it’s actually my phone.
I love technology, and I hate technology.
I love that I can stay connected with family and friends who live across the nation and across the globe.
I hate that it gives me the feeling that my world isn’t as perfect or put together as another mom’s (reality check: my world isn’t perfect or put together).
I love that I can send a quick text to remind my husband of something important or to check on a friend.
I hate that I’m always available and never unplugged (reality check: I don’t actually have to respond every time a notification pops up).
I love that my kids can play educational games and give me a little peace and quiet in the afternoon.
I hate that too much screen time turns my kids into crazy gremlins (reality check: it’s my own fault when the gremlins come out).
Too Much of a Good Thing
So where is the balance? Technology is here to stay, and it brings a myriad of benefits to our lives. But I don’t want my children to grow up thinking that the world revolves around them and everything is just a click away, without them having to work hard for it.
I want to teach them to be disciplined and how to delay gratification. I want them to be problem solvers and critical thinkers. Good grief. I want them to be able to sit quietly at a restaurant as we wait for a meal and engage in actual conversation with those around them. Will devices help them to do this? No. The pull of the little tiny glowing screens that offer endless entertainment is just too strong.
So, as the parent who loves them and wants the best for them, screen time is hereby limited, for them and for me.
There, I said it — in front of everyone… yikes! And summer is here. Those long days with no school and bored kids… what am I going to do?
How to Fill the Time
Teaching boundaries to our kids is one of the most important things we can do as parents, especially when it comes to technology. The first step in the process is me limiting my own screen time. If I’m always connected to my device and distracted from my kids, they are going to learn to do the same.
So, I’m pledging to not check social media until at least after lunch (whatever awesomeness happened will still be there at that time, I’m sure). And when they are talking to me while I’m on my phone, I’m going to put the phone down and talk to my own kids. We’ve fallen so far that this has to actually be a goal. As for the kids, we have a list of things that they need to do before they ask us to use any sort of device.
Here is a little peek at that list:
- Read on your own
- Complete chores from the posted list
- Practice piano/karate/workout
- Play outside
- Play on your own (we have a whole room full of toys that gets totally bypassed if a device is an option)
- Make a craft/write a letter
I’m not going to lie. It’s not easy to put up boundaries. My kids are currently watching Nina’s World so that I can write this blog. But I’m determined to teach them the value of exploration, delayed gratification, and being bored (psychologists actually recommend it for kids in the summer).
For more resources, check out these links:
- Book: The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch
- Book: The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age by Catherine Steiner-Adair
- Podcast: The Tech-Wise Family with Andy Crouch
- Podcast: Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality with Dr. Russell Moore
Will you take the Limited Screen Time Challenge with me this summer? (Pretty Please? There’s strength in numbers!)