Screen time and how often to let your children be in front of screens can be one of the biggest stressors for modern parents. In this video, Dr. Josh Straub encourages parents and breaks down how he handles screen time with his own family.
Check out TwentyTwoSix Parenting, a practical discipleship plan for families hosted by Josh and Christi Straub. TwentyTwoSix is a shame-free community of parents who walk together to create the environment necessary to “Start a youth out on his way…” (Proverbs 22:6).
The entire video is above, and the complete transcript is below.
How do we handle screen time with our kids? I speak a lot on this. I’ve studied the research over and over and over again on the influence that screens are having on our children’s brains, but also our own as parents. What I want to do, just briefly, is walk you through how we deal with screens in our own home. Our children are six and four. Our son is six. Our daughter is four.
Screens actually have a bigger effect, at least from what I see, on boys as they grow up because of the video gaming. Boys can tend to get sucked in a lot easier and become addicts a lot easier than girls. However, when girls hit those pre-teen years that’s when research shows that it can be a really powerful way for teen girls to get drawn in into more shallow relationships and they can get into being addicted as well, not necessarily to the screen, but more isolation and feelings of rejection and betrayal as it relates to their friendships because girls are building their identity around their relationships.
One of the ways that we manage screens in our home is we go to Deuteronomy 6 and we look at the four key times of the day. That’s where we start. In the morning when our kids wake, during meal times, during drive times or as Moses describes, “when we walk along the way”, and then at bedtime when we tuck our kids in. We have a rule in our home, a hard and fast rule, where there’s no screens at the dinner table or anytime that we’re eating. We don’t have screens at anytime during those meals. It’s just it leads to disconnection.
We also do everything that we can to not have screens at those other times of the day as well. Now the exception is when we’re on long road trips. Our kids do have Kindle Fires. They don’t look at the Kindle Fires every day. They look at them when we go on long road trips or on the rare occasion if we use it as an incentive for good behavior. But our kids are not navigating tablets or phones at the age that they are by themselves at all without our supervision.
Early on we allowed our kids to watch television in the mornings with Daniel Tiger or that type of thing to get ready because you need grace. You know, what’s the balance here? I think is the big question. But we saw overtime that our kids were different if they were watching TV in the morning versus if they didn’t. So we’ve actually eliminated it.
I think one of the biggest things that you can do is become students of your children. Look at how the screen is impacting your children. Are you seeing a change in behavior with them? Are they throwing a temper tantrum? Are they throwing a fit if they don’t get to look at it? Are they being ungrateful when it’s time to take it away? Are they saying “Thank you, Mom or Dad for letting me look at this. I really appreciate it,”? Their character is what matters the most as we raise our kids and if you see the screens influencing your children’s character, it’s time to set some limits on those screens.
I really want to encourage you as well, especially if you have kids that are older. Once children hit about age 12 giving them an iPhone or giving them a cell phone is like giving them crack cocaine. It literally triggers the same parts of the brain and kids at that age just don’t know how to handle because it’s dopamine. We know that the app companies and the tech companies are building these apps so that we stay addicted, that we stay on them. It’s the same thing with our kids.
So I really want to challenge you as well as a parent. One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve ever received was from Dr. Diane Langberg, a mentor and a colleague, who said, “Anything that you cannot fast from owns you.” I really want to encourage you as a parent. If you have an inability to set limits on your phone or on your screen, it’s gonna be almost impossible to try to do that with your kids in a way that you respect you along the journey.
So look at yourself. We have to look inwardly first as adults and then carry that into a relationship with our kids because I guarantee you they are influencing our children’s brains one way or the other. And the question is, are we using it for good or is it having a negative affect on who our family is and is becoming?