Note: With this post, the short series on screens is concluded. I will take a break between now and the end of the year. A new blog series launches in January. Stay tuned.
Screen Time 6
In last week’s post, I went into some detail about the specific damage unsupervised access to screen time does to children. In today’s post, I want to give nine short yet practical ideas for parents in relation to this. I’m going to move hard and fast so keep up.
First, wisdom says your default screen position should be negative or suspicious. I am not generally a fan of suspicious parenting. In this context, though, with the screen time needle pegged so firmly in the red, I think a child should have to convince you why it is a good idea for them to have screen time. Make them state a case. Be hard to win over here.
Two, track screen time. With our children we used several different approaches. For a while, we gave the children a number of cards at the beginning of each week. They could play a card and get some screen time. Once those cards were used up for the week that was it. Another time, I set up an actual Excel spreadsheet for each child. They entered the time they spent reading vs. the time they spent on a screen. They could not spend screen time if they had not purchased it with book time. Neither one was fool-proof. There are no fool proof easy plans to do this. It takes parenting. But it needs done, especially when they are young.
Three, be the boss. In every family, someone is in charge. It does not take long in a grocery store line to spot who it is either. Be the one in charge in your family.
Fourth, ignore what your children want, or what their friends have, or what their friend’s parents think is normal. Our society today is so messed up it is hard to even begin to describe it. God gave those precious children into your custody for a given period of time. Your task is to provide for them, protect them, and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. You will answer only to Him for how you did in this task. It does not matter what everybody else thinks.
Fifth, realize safety can be accomplished without a smart phone. I am weary of the nonsensical argument that children must be given a phone with internet access in order to be safe. For thousands of years, this was not the case. It is not the case now. There are other good choices. For many years, we kept a flip phone we named Three (for the third phone). When a kid went somewhere he or she took Three. It was so not cool. It could text, painfully slow. It had no internet access. It was brilliant. Now, Three has graduated to a camera phone from Gabb. It can make calls and take pictures, but it does not have a modem so no internet access. It can text, but cannot text pictures. It can play music, but the music has to be uploaded physically just like the pictures have to be downloaded physically. It cannot download any apps. And it costs about twenty-five bucks a month.
Sixth, make your kids read. I could cite a large number of studies here, but I will resist. Yes, I know no one reads anymore. So? Have them read anyway. I know your little Oswald is too active to read. So? I will see you your little Oswald and raise you my son, Jack. Talk about hyper-active. One of the great accomplishments of my life was teaching that boy to like reading. It can be done. I do not have space in this post to describe how to do so. My point here is to encourage it. Reading builds all kinds of life skills, improves brain health, makes him smarter, and protects your child from screen addiction. If your child does not read a double digit number of books every year you are doing it wrong. Yes, I mean every word of that last sentence.
Seventh, allow your kids to be bored. Your job description does not include finding something for them to occupy themselves with every moment. Additionally, studies have shown that unstructured play time helps children enormously. Let them roam. They will figure it out. If they keep badgering you, give them a job. They will stop badgering you. In fact, you should probably give them a job anyway. <grin>
Eighth, do not let society, the media, their peers, their educators, or their own wishes choose for them; you choose.
Ninth, lead by example. Limit your own screen time. Take them to the library and bring home a stack of books for yourself too. Lose your remote control for a month. Be accountable. Be where you are with who you are with. Cultivate an improved attention span. Resist the siren song of dopamine. Show them it can be done right.
I make zero claims on parental infallibility. I have long resisted writing any series or book on parenting or marriage. I have seen what happens too often to those who do. But what I have written in this short blog series cries out to be done. Our society is crumbling, and a large part of that can be laid at the feet of this. Neither you nor I can change the world, but we can lead ourselves and our families to do right.
It can be done. And it should.