As parents, we need to know the answers to these questions if we are going to guide our children effectively in this land of screens.
Hopefully, by the end of this post you will have a better grasp on it than you did beforehand. Let’s start by tackling the question of how screens affect us.
Screens do have some positive effects!
Economist Robert Guest recently wrote a fascinating post for Business Insider focused on Millennials (ages 15-30). He said that, “… Millennials grew up in a post-global financial disaster era where smartphones meant everything they ever wanted to know was at their fingertips. Young people score higher on intelligence tests, which the report attributes to better nutrition and mass education. They go on to make more money than their elders, too.”
If you are diligent, it’s pretty simple to find apps and online games for kids of all ages that are educational. Some games help kids with numbers, others with vocab, and some with logic and many other skills.
Children can also learn about God and the Bible. The Bible App For Kids features 35+ stories and 7 major languages. It also comes with some added resources for parents including coloring sheets, adventure books, and parent guides. The last I checked they were approaching around 10 million downloads worldwide!
Unfortunately, screen time can have negative effects on our kids as well. Scientists are now telling us that social media can have addictive qualities due to its ability to trigger the release of a chemical in our brain called dopamine. Dopamine is released whenever we receive an unexpected reward. Its continual release causes a change in our desires.
Practically speaking, anyone who uses Facebook knows the good feeling you get when you hear the notification sound on your phone. Ding! Dopamine drives that desire to pick up your phone and find out who it is.
The more time you spend picking up your phone to read your notifications, the more dopamine is released and the desire becomes stronger and stronger. No wonder some of us can’t stop looking at our phones!
But there are darker and more dangerous things online that we must know about. Nationwide surveys of students have found that 93 percent of boys and 62 percent of girls have seen pornography in adolescence.
In Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain, William M. Struthers explains that the human brain can be chemically hijacked by pornography. Scientists are now saying that porn literally rewires the brain. As a pastor who has worked with guys addicted to porn, I can attest to the fact that it is damaging on so many levels. We must do our best to protect our kids from porn!
Equip Your Kids
Equipping our children begins by talking to them in an age-appropriate way about how the internet works and the dangers they may encounter. This is why it’s so important that we educate ourselves as parents.
For those of us who are followers of Christ, we also have a responsibility to help our children understand that their use of media is just another part of their walk of faith. Here are some verses you can review with your kids: Prov. 4:23, Job 31:1, Ps. 101:3, 1 Thes. 5:22, Phil. 4:8, Eph. 5:11.
Develop a Plan
Start by spending some time with their screens. Not sure how to make them work? Ask your kids to show you how. Remember, they’re natives. Trevor just got the PlayStation 4. I didn’t know how to work it, so I asked him to show me. What a system!
Once you have a general understanding of their media devices, it’s time to activate parental controls. If you are not sure how to do it, Google it! There is a plethora of this type of information online. Trust me!
We dedicated a page of our website to other tools you can use in addition to parental controls. You can read more in depth about them by clicking here. As a family, we use parental controls on all of our devices. We also use an internet tracking program called Covenant Eyes on all our devices and computers. Cheryl receives a weekly report outlining every website that has been visited.
We allow our children to have 30 minutes of screen time on a school day and an hour on the weekends. Because our boys are teenagers and love sports, we do allow them to watch games on the weekends and an occasional show on a weeknight if their homework is done.
This plan works for our family. Your plan may look a little different depending on the ages of your kids and your overall family structure. That’s okay! What matters is that you are taking intentional steps to protect your kids. If you feel like you need help structuring a plan, the American Academy of Pediatrics has a Family Media Use Plan that you can try by clicking here.
It’s important to talk with your children about what they are doing online. If they have an Instagram page, you should get one too. Post comments on their page. This is a great way to monitor who they are befriending and to affirm their responsible decisions online as well.
One of the biggest mistakes we can make as parents is to use our children’s screens as babysitting time. We’ve all been there. We have things to do and a child that needs attention. Instead of interacting with them, we hand them our phone. Three hours later, we realize they’ve been playing Minion Rush the whole time! Yikes!
Being technologically slow is no longer a good excuse for not participating with our kids and their technology. This is the world we live in, and we must stay engaged if we are going to help them stay safe.
Our goal as parents should be to teach our children how to use their screens responsibly and in a godly way. The ultimate success is to have children who grow up and use it in a healthy way as adults.
For those of us who are believers in Christ, praying for our children is an incredible privilege. A friend of mine prays a prayer for his children that I like so much that I adopted it. His prayer is, “Lord, please keep my kids from falling into life-altering sin.” I pray this every day because I know that the enemy is using media to steal the hearts of our children. I want to encourage you to pray a covering over your children as well.
As for screens, they’re not going away. My prediction is that we will see more and more screens in our everyday life. Let’s be parents that teach our kids how to use them in a responsible and godly way. It is possible, and together we can help each other do it well.
What are your thoughts on all this? We’d love to hear from you. Let us know your experience and some of things you’ve done to manage your family’s screens!