Serious Limits for Kids’ Screen Time

I’ve mentioned this book here before: Boys Should be Boys: 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons.  This is not a Christian book, but it does have some decent common grace principles in it, principles I’ve found helpful in raising my own four children  Below are two quotes I’d like to share again and comment on – quotes which have to do with sons, but certainly apply to daughters as well:

“Boys spend far too little time with parents and they suffer because of it. …We have become so absorbed with keeping up with our daily lives that we miss seeing what our boys really need, which is simply more of us: our time and our attention. …Our boys don’t need things, they need us, even just being around….” (p. 13).”

“As a pediatrician I can tell you that disconnecting, or strictly limiting and strictly supervising your son’s access to electronic media is one of the best things you can do for his emotional, mental, and physical health. Boys are suffering from some serious problems from using the wrong electronic media. And it starts not in their teenage years, but long before, when busy parents use the television as a babysitter. …A mother who buys off a toddler’s or a teen’s temper tantrums with television or a video game clearly has a problem on her hands. She needs to learn to deal with her toddler or teenager – and the sooner the better. He will develop wretched habits if he learns it’s that easy to manipulate his mother” (p. 55, 57).

My boys are between 10 and 15 years old, and I can tell you first hand that strictly limiting screen time absolutely does pay off.  We don’t have network or cable TV, our kids don’t have cell phone plans, You Tube and quite a few other websites are blocked in our house, and our kids typically spend less than six hours in front of a screen each week.  Our kids do complain about it quite a bit and tell us how unfair we are, but honestly it’s been great to raise kids that aren’t addicted to a screen.  We are very (!) imperfect parents, but limiting screen time is one of the smarter things we’ve done in our Christian home.

I realize there are tons of helpful articles and books out there that give good advice on limiting screen time; I don’t have a lot to add except to say (again!) that it is very much worth the effort to put a big limit on screen time.  Practically speaking, rather than pay for cable, cell phone plans, and new cell phones or tablets, we’ve used that money over the years to get two kayaks, a puppy, State Park entrance stickers, habitats for critters like frogs and snakes, tickets to a few MLB games, and so on.  Recently we purchased a small fishing boat on which we’ve already spent numerous screen-less hours fishing and cruising up and down lakes and rivers.  In other words, we invest in things that get our kids outside and allow us to spend quality time with them.

A friend just told me a sad story about seeing a family camping on a beautiful weekend.  What were they doing outside their camper?  Getting fishing poles ready, sitting by the campfire laughing, or playing bean bag toss?  Nope.  Both parents and kids were on lawn chairs silently staring at their screens.  Screens do have a place in life, but we as parents have to model and teach self-control, moderation, and we have to view screens as tools that have a right use and a wrong one.  If you’re parents with kids still in the house, it’s not to late to put serious limits on screen time.  If you don’t yet have kids or if your kids are very young, you should think about how you’ll deal with screen time when the time comes.  This is one of those things we pray about, asking God for wisdom and understanding when it comes to screens in the Christian home.  It’s not always easy to put serious limits on screen time, but it will certainly pay off in the long run!

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

One Reply to “Serious Limits for Kids’ Screen Time”

  1. Informative for me and for rearing up my 1½ yr old son. If my heart says, “I don’t want to deal with this screaming boy, therefore give him a screen,” then I know I need to man up and be a proactive father over against a lazy one. Thanks, Shane.

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