Dear Dr. B,
I’ve become increasingly concerned that my child may be using too much electronics…tv, computer, dvd, internet, iPod, iPad, video games, etc. How much is too much and when is enough, enough?
Sincerely, Electronic-Age Parent
I’m glad that you are considering appropriate boundaries for your child. Our children crave limits. They don’t have the wisdom or experience to set limits for themselves, so they depend on us. Without limits, our children are more prone to anxiety.
There are several concerns about children and electronics:
Research has suggested that the more time our children spend on electronic gadgets of any kind, the greater the risk that they will struggle with attention and learning issues.
We’re also seeing that the more time our children spend on electronics, the less creative they tend to be.
The more our children spend engaged with electronics, the greater the risk that they will struggle with socialization issues.
The other concern that I have as a parent, is that with increased exposure to electronic mediums comes decreased control over what material they are exposed to. One day I will have to answer to God about what I let me children do and see.
I frequently explain to my children that it’s my job to help them guard their heart and mind. Once they’ve been exposed to pictures or lyrics, it’s in their mind and I can’t undo it. I take very seriously the scriptures “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You do not belong to yourself” (1 Corinthians 6:19)
So you are wise to question “How much is too much?” and “When is enough, enough?”
I recommend that parents limit their children’s exposure to electronics to 30-60 minutes per day. If your child is school-aged, they are in school approximately eight hours a day, and need 8-12 hours of sleep nightly. That leaves 4-8 hours for eating, grooming and hygiene, homework, and playtime.
You might be wondering, and many of my patients do, “what about the summer months when they aren’t in school?” It’s no different. Your child’s brain is developing when they are in school and out, during the school days and weekends. It still affects brain development. Think of it this way, your child’s brain doesn’t know whether it’s a school day or a vacation day…it still has work to do.
In our home, screen time is limited. During the summer months our kids have an opportunity to earn more screen time, but not much. We have a list of activities they can do to earn more electronic time. The list includes things like 30-minutes of reading, 30-minutes of additional piano practice, 30-minutes of outdoor physical activity, etc. But it isn’t a one to one correlation. Any one of those tasks may only earn an additional 5-10 minutes of electronics.
I recommend that you pray about this issue. God is faithful. When we ask for wisdom, He promises to give it liberally. Ask Him what is right for your child and for your family. Remember too, what scripture says:
“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
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