Readers Ask: How Do You Handle Screen Time?

Yesterday, I told you I was starting a mini-series of reader’s questions and then told you why I hate writing posts like this. Today, I will begin to answer some specific questions that younger moms have asked. Please allow us grace if you disagree or do things differently in your home. My intent is not to tell you what you should be doing, because we can barely keep up with what we need to be doing. :) But, you asked…so here we go. :)

Q: How do you handle screen time? What do you allow your children to watch?

We are responsible as parents for what enters our home as entertainment.

Our screen time decisions will seem pretty narrow to many, and we know that not everyone has the same sensitivities to TV/movies that we do. We’ve chosen to be pretty strict with ourselves, and hence, our kids, with what we watch or don’t watch.

J.C. Ryles gives this advice to parents:

“A true Christian must be no slave to fashion, if he would train his child for heaven.

He must not be content to do things merely because they are the custom of the world; to teach them and instruct them in certain ways, merely because it is usual;

to allow them to read books of a questionable sort, merely because everybody else reads them; to let them form habits of a doubtful tendency, merely because they are the habits of the day.

He must train with an eye to his children’s souls.  He must not be ashamed to hear his training called singular and strange. What if it is? The time is short, — the fashion of this world passeth away.  He that has trained his children for heaven, rather than for earth, — for God, rather than for man, — he is the parent that will be called wise at last.”

In everything we do, we try to remember that we are training our children to be citizens of heaven, and not to be comfortable, or to fit in here on Earth.

In everything we do, we ask ourselves several questions:

  • Will this activity bring glory or shame to God?
  • If God were sitting with us in our living room, would He be comfortable watching this?
  • Where does this fall on the “Wisdom Scale.”
  • Does this movie, show, music reflect the morals of a corrupt culture?
  • Does this movie, show, music help or hinder our spiritual growth?
  • Does this activity cause someone else to stumble?

When the kids were young, we did allow them some tv time. Winnie the Pooh and Little Bear were favorites in our home. Screen time was not a big part of their life, and we tried to limit it. We encouraged outdoor play and hands on crafts over screen time. I did use screen time when I needed to make dinner and needed 30-45 minutes of sanity time for mom. :)

Now that they are older, things have changed. We have computers, internet access, handheld games, PS3’s and iPod touches. Things are a bit more complicated now. Boundaries AND principles are a MUST when dealing with teens and electronics.

We’ve personally chosen not to have cable or TV reception in our home because we don’t want the “world unfiltered” available in our home 24/7.  Peter and I agree that we personally need to be on our guard as parents about becoming callous (morally/biblically unresponsive) to the immoral advertising and images even on good stations. We don’t want that temptation in front of us or our kids on a daily basis. We’ve found that thinking with a “heavenly mindset” is challenging enough for us without the bombardment of “earthly” messages to distract us. (Your sensitivities might be different than ours…perhaps you may find that your distractions come via other methods like Facebook, the news or books, etc…)

When we go on vacation and have cable in our hotel room, we are always confirmed in our personal decision as a couple to not have cable in the home because the ads are so shocking to us.

As far as movies go, we either watch videos we have purchased or that we’ve rented from Netflix or Redbox. We also purchased a TVGaurdian to prevent the kids from hearing swearing during movies.

The kids are not allowed to watch anything PG or higher without parental consent. We don’t ever watch anything of a s*xually explicit nature in the house. (If it takes place in bed, it is not allowed.) We don’t allow graphic violence to be viewed as entertainment. This does not mean that we won’t watch a war movie, but something that glorifies killing and senseless violence, as in gruesome murder, rape, torture or anything else like that.

We also discuss movies (even G rated ones) where the hero/heroine has serious character flaws. For instance, when Hope and Holly just watched a Tinkerbell movie and the main character was dreamily recounting how her “guy” fairy broke the rules for her, we discussed how if a guy will break the rules FOR you, then he will break the rules ON you.

The movie “Brave” is a recent example of the world promoting headstrongness and disobedience to parents as a virtue as long as you are “following your own heart” and truly believe you are in the right.

We are wary of movies that put children into a morally gray situation where there is no right decision/response, but where choosing the lesser of two evils is their only choice. We dislike it when Hollywood blurs the lines so much between right and wrong that you are now forced to choose between two evils. Although this might happen in real life, we don’t want them feeding on this as entertainment, because your mind is passive and not in a critical thinking mode when you are watching a movie.  (For example, in “Tangled”– do you run away from home and follow your heart because you really want something and now believe that your mother (the only mother you’ve ever known) is really a kidnapper and that you are really a lost princess, or do you stay, follow all the rules and be considered a good daughter?) What child should be left to sort out that mess in the name of entertainment? (We’ve watched and enjoyed Tangled, by the way, but these are things we discuss after the fact.)

Basically, we’ve taken the approach that if God calls it sin and hollywood portrays it as normal or good we don’t watch it for entertainment. Of course, I am sure that we have blind spots and are inconsistent in some ways, but we try to love the things that God loves, and hate the things that God hates and we try to teach the kids to think along those lines. Do I believe this is the only right way? No. Do I believe that sheltering them will produce godly children? No, not at all.  But I believe that by limiting their exposure to questionable material, and maximizing their exposure to godly material that I am feeding their soul on goodness. I believe that what we think about has a huge affect on our character.

THAT pretty much sums up what we do in our home as far as screen time. :)

How do you handle screen time in your home?

3 comments

  1. Zina says:

    Sarah,

    I really like your thought process and how you arrived at these guidelines for your house and family. We have very similar rules at our house. We allow our children one hour a day of screentime(Facebook, TV, Wii,…) On The weekends they don’t have any screen time except to possible anser a Facebooj email or something small like that.
    I appreciate the spirit with which you shared your “rules” and the goals you have for your children.

  2. Kim says:

    Thank you for sharing! We share many of the same ideals you have re: TV time, unless it’s vacation time then my children can see a little bit more of their favorite shows. They are limited to only DVDs we’ve selected at this point. The challenge I face is when we’re at relatives’ homes and TV shows there are not wholesome…protecting my children’s eyes from that is difficult and we’ve had some tough talks with family members about it. But they mostly come around and are agreeable when we focus more on protecting the kids rather than trying to take over control at their homes :)