For any of us with children, this is the question that will quite possibly define our generation as parents. Are we putting our children’s future in harm’s way? Or will the amount of time they spend in front of screens of any size play no significant part in how their lives turn out?
Looking forward, that’s a very hard question to answer. Obviously, there are many factors that play into whether or not someone’s life is successful. And there are many different definitions of success. But there are a few things I remind myself of whenever I ponder this area of our family’s life.
- Look to my own behaviours. Whether or not we come to a definitive answer in our culture about “how much is too much”, I can help my children by honestly evaluating how I’m spending my own time. Remember, our children are often a reflection of ourselves. If you see something you don’t like, you're likely the one who needs to make a change.
- Establish better defaults. I don’t simply mean that you train yourself to pick up a book instead of your phone every time you have a spare minute (although that’s a good thing to do). But when I preach this to myself, it’s my way of remembering that my motives are important. Am I picking up my phone in order to check something I care about? This gets me to asking what do I care about. Is my default motivation entertainment and pleasure? Or do I feel a broader purpose for my life? Hopefully, the answer to the last one is yes. Then I can start to ask what am I doing right now to achieve that broader purpose? What defaults can I build to get myself moving down that road?
- The dose makes the poison. Old adages can be cliché … but often they make a lot of sense. I don’t believe that 30–60 minutes of screen time for my children is a problem provided that there is balance and useful pursuits through the rest of the day. But if I see them spending the rest of the day wandering around not accomplishing much of anything, spending all their time talking or thinking about the screen related activity — that’s when I start to worry.
- Creation trumps consumption. Cameron Moll shared recently how they're family had to go back to the "contract" when consumption started to take first place. That's the same for our home, but we also add an emphasis that being creative away from the screen should get as much attention as being creative with a screen.
I don’t have all the answers here. But I think about this a lot. And we talk about it with them. A lot. Even if we don’t get it right, they know our worries, our own struggles, and what we value.
Hopefully that will bear fruit.