As my children get older, I feel the push to relinquish motherhood to management. There are days my life feels like a giant jigsaw puzzle of schedules, homework, meal-planning, and social calendars. Screen time for kids is a new aspect of our lives we are asked to manage in our cultural moment and it certainly deserves our attention. I have found that a few guidelines help me to continue to make space for the things that matter most to us as a family in this season. We desire to honor the childhood of our children. We want to let it linger long into the teenage years. We will resist the “hurry” culture and, as parents, will be the gatekeepers as the world tries to rob our kids’ safety and peace during these years.
On my more dramatic days, I would tell you that I believe screens are liars and thieves. They masquerade as connection and rest, while actually delivering isolation and angst. They steal the moments that childhood needs to breathe and live. On my less dramatic days, I know that sticking my head in the sand is both ignorant and dangerous for all of us. Anyone can tell you the stats or the science behind the digital addiction epidemic in this generation. Anyone can research the latest security measures and monitoring apps. Anyone can manage… only mothers can mother. We lay the filters not just for content, but for the hearts of our kids. Here are a few of ours:
Anyone can research the latest security measures and monitoring apps. Anyone can manage… only mothers can mother.
1. During the school year, there are no screens Monday-Thursday (unless necessary for homework).
2. During the summer, we have a “Before Screens List.”
These are the things that each child must accomplish daily before they are allowed to watch or play on a screen. In our family these include some sort of Bible time, keeping their room tidy, taking care of their designated animals, one chore, one math fact page, 30 minutes of reading, and 30 minutes playing outside. The outside time usually melts into the rest of the day and “screen time” becomes an outdoor family movie night after the sun goes down.
3. Absolutely no screens at the table, and no screens in public!
We value connection with the real humans in our lives, in our paths, and around our tables above entertainment.
4. No one gets a phone until the 7th grade.
That is when the schedule changes at our school and the need to be in touch feels real. I like the fact that we have years while they are still at home to give them tools to help them manage their phones without giving it to them before they can handle the responsibility. They know the two reasons they have phones are (1) to communicate with US, and (2) for school assignments, emails, texts, etc. If at any point they are not communicating with us (i.e. not answering our calls or texts in a timely manner), or they aren’t keeping up with school, the privilege of their phone is gone.
5. We own all screens and reserve the right to read, look at, listen to, and watch whatever they have read, looked at, listened to and watched.
I read every text. I preview every app, game, song, and movie. We use Disney’s Circle and Our Pact and I believe they are helpful. But knowing Mom is going to grab your phone at any moment is even more so.
6. We have also chosen not to have any gaming “systems” in our home.
It’s one less thing to manage. Kids come over to swim, ride the go-cart, explore, play… not to play a video game. Yep, we’re that house.
We’re not perfect and we’re not doing this perfectly. Things will slip through the cracks. But it won’t be childhood, and it won’t be connection. It won’t be purity or the heart of our family’s values. It won’t be mothering in the place of management.
Tell us! How do you handle your child’s screen time?