Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Biblical View on Screen Time


On occasion I find time to read something from Simple Homeschool's Weekend Links. Last weekend I found a link entitled Screen Rules, by Elizabeth Foss of In the Heart of My Home. Elizabeth's is not a blog I read (spiritual content is far different from my faith), but this particular post title caught my eye. Screen obsession in America's young people worries and saddens me.

Elizabeth lists 12 rules she and her husband came up with to regulate the use of iPhones, iPods, computers, television, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. In the comments she admits to needing some regulation of her own screen time, and that she too, benefits from the 12 rules.

As I read it struck me, why do kids need these things at all? Why do they need hand-held computer access? Why do they need texting? Why do they need cameras with them everywhere they go? Why do they need Facebook or Twitter accounts? Or any other social media account?

Staying out of trouble is hard for teens. Period. They're hardwired for risk and danger. Nowadays it's harder for them than ever. Parents allow them too much freedom during the years they're least likely to behave responsibly.

And with social media and screen use, the mistakes can be terribly costly and long-lasting. One tragedy after another fills the newspapers, and yet, parents aren't stopping the insanity.

The 12 rules Elizabeth lists are nice on paper, but she admits herself she doesn't have time to check text messages received and sent by her children. She only warns them with the pithy comment, "You never know when I'll be in a long line and have time to check your accounts."

I like her bullet points and the focus on the heart, but I don't agree that kids should have these gadgets and accounts at all.

Why not just say no to all of this stuff, since there is absolutely no need for them in a child's life? Kids want them so they can fit in with their peers, more than anything. Is it good to encourage fitting in? It is good to buy the $60 athletic shoes a child wants but doesn't need, just because everybody has them? Is it good to give an iPhone or iPod or cell phone, just because all the kids have them?

Shouldn't we be around our kids most of the time, instead of giving them a phone to contact us? They can get into major trouble despite being a phone call away from us. Phones don't keep kids out of trouble...parental supervision and involvement do. Teens needs just as much of our time as our toddlers do.

What should our homes look like, really? Shouldn't we have a spiritual focus and family-bonding focus? If everyone is looking at a different screen, engaged with people and media outside the family, how can family bonding occur, and a strong spiritual foundation be laid?

If it's not sports and other extracurricular activities separating the family, it's screens and social media.

We're a distracted nation and our young people suffer from too little parental/family engagement. They're not grounded anymore because parents aren't focused on building a foundation in their homes. I don't mean you personally or me personally, but none of us is immune to the ways of the culture. We must regularly take stock and gauge how far the culture has taken us from a biblical worldview.

What fathers do to build a spiritual foundation is profoundly important. They're more influential than mothers alone in ensuring lasting spiritual faith in their children. Kids with both Dad and Mom involved in their spiritual growth fare the best.

What can we, as mothers, do while we dwell with our children all day?

We can build our house wisely. I love Matthew Henry's commentary on Proverbs 14:1, shown below the verse:

Proverbs 14:1 The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down

Note, 1. A good wife is a great blessing to a family. By a fruitful wife a family is multiplied and replenished with children, and so built up. But by a prudent wife, one that is pious, industrious, and considerate, the affairs of the family are made to prosper, debts are paid, portions raised, provision made, the children well educated and maintained, and the family has comfort within doors and credit without; thus is the house built. She looks upon it as her own to take care of, though she knows it is her husband’s to bear rule in, Est. 1:22. 2. Many a family is brought to ruin by ill housewifery, as well as by ill husbandry. A foolish woman, that has no fear of God nor regard to her business, that is wilful, and wasteful, and humoursome, that indulges her ease and appetite, and is all for jaunting and feasting, cards and the play-house, though she come to a plentiful estate, and to a family beforehand, she will impoverish and waste it, and will as certainly be the ruin of her house as if she plucked it down with her hands; and the husband himself, with all his care, can scarcely prevent it.

When you read Matthew Henry's description of a wise woman, does it conjure up the image of a woman on Facebook everyday? Or needing to check a computer screen frequently? Can she build her house with a focus on posting pictures and tidbits online, or does she build it by investing her time in her children's hearts and in their education?

Be in the world but not of the world...that is the challenge. Can we pray about screen time and use it for His glory, only?

Certainly there's room for some personal time on most days, but let's face it, raising children well is time-consuming. If we're on a screen very much during the day while they're awake, how are we investing in them spiritually? Screens are addictive and they can steal the best years of our parenting away, easily. Children find them just as addictive as adults do, so why have them go down that path at all...especially before they can pay for the screens themselves?

As mothers building a home, we have to show our children that there are far sweeter things in life than screens. And that no one can be measured by likes or clicks. Our measuring stick for worth comes in the price Jesus paid for us. Our status is this: Redeemed. Deeply loved by a gracious God.

To steer our children right, to build a pious home, we have to make sure we're on the right path ourselves. I don't think the right path is one that includes a lot of screen time (especially before their bedtime).

And giving children all these gadgets and accounts? It's all a waste of their precious time...time they desperately need to grow closer to God and their family.

We as mothers need to get out of bed everyday with the goal of building a home Jesus would smile upon. We would do well to gather our children and teach them, just as this Deuteronomy verse says: You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You should write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.“These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.“You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.“You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.“You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

If social media and screens are present at all, let's give them last importance. There are so many better things to do, better things to focus on, as mothers, as children, and as families.

A wise woman uses screens sparingly, teaching her children their proper place and utility.

How have you dealt with this in your home? Do you have tips or a story to share?

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