How Much Screen Time is Too Much?

Your Life
Dr. Cathleen McGreal
July, 2016

My 8-year-old son seems to spend all of his time on digital devices, watching shows, playing games and “talking” to his friends. My friends say this is what’s normal today, but I think he should be outside playing. How much screen time is too much?

 

When I was young, one of my teachers spoke of attending the 1931 White House Conference on Child Health and Protection as a contributor to the Children’s Charter. Her favorite phrase was: “For the child, his play is his work and his work is his play.” President Hoover noted that, “These plans must constantly be translated into action.” The suggestions that children need opportunities to grow spiritually, to have secure homes, to attend wholesome schools and to spend time in play still need to be translated into action.

What games and shows are favorites? Today’s parents may recall becoming intrigued by the western expansion across the U.S. through The Oregon Trail. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? stimulated interest in geography. Check out the quality of your child’s games. Do they enrich educational skills? Are they consistent with your values?

What activities do digital devices replace? “Talking” with friends digitally isn’t the same as face-to-face interaction. Encourage imaginative play. My daughter and her friends enjoyed decorating wooden embroidery hoops with ribbons; then they tossed the hoops back and forth, watching the colors stream through the air. In-person conversations are richer than that of children texting.

Monitor the quality of the interactions as well as the amount of time. “Face-time” on a cell phone with grandparents who live far away helps maintain key relationships. Consider what your children observe in terms of your own digital activities. Are family meals a time to focus on sharing food and conversation? Or do you text at the table? Make choices about whether “normal activities” are life-renewing or distracting. Pray your concerns: Proverbs 2:6.