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5 Questions For Setting Screen Time Limits (And When To Toss Those Limits Aside)

August 3, 2016

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I knew it the moment I took a step, something was wrong. Very wrong. A second before I had hoisted my right leg over the baby gate, a maneuver I take about five dozen times a day. But this time was different, and now a sharp, piercing pain ran down the right side of my back. I gently lowered myself to the floor, wincing with each slight movement. Tears spilled down my cheeks as I texted my husband. “I cannot move.”

Our weekend packed with plans of hiking and running and exploring would now be spent with me on the couch. Now, normally the thought of three days lazing around, swinging in the hammock, and reading books would sound dreamy. But you see, I have kids. Little ones. I have little kids who need diaper changes, snacks, entertainment, and supervision. Oh, and a toddler who constantly needs to be rescued from the top of the dining room table after he climbs the chairs while I’m not looking.

Bed rest with young kids? Yeah that’s not a thing.

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In those moments that I spent flat on my back staring at the ceiling through teary eyes, one of my first thoughts was of our recent decision to scale back on screen time. My mind recited words I had written the week before. Words painting a picture of life’s various seasons, and how those seasons ebb and flow with various needs. There on that floor as I lay waiting for my husband’s rescue, and making a mental note to vacuum that carpet as soon as I could move again, I found myself in one of those seasons with greater need.

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 And so over the next few days, I eased up on our newly-established screen time limits. At first, as I lay on the couch with ice pressed against my back, my boy next to me entranced by (another) episode of Bob the Builder, guilt was quick to rush in. I felt as though I was undoing all of our hard work from recent weeks. But that was not at all the case. Instead, after a few days of some extra screen time for the boys, and rest and healing for me, we simply reestablished our screen time boundaries. Just like that. Done and done.

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When we started this journey a few weeks ago, I knew that the question would come up. And so I wasn’t at all surprised last week when a reader asked how much screen time we are letting our kids have. Immediately my mind went to a quote from Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane’s Book, Growing Up Social (Win a copy below!).

In it they explain, “In terms of how much screen time you allow your child, only you can decide how much is too much.”

I don’t believe that there is a “Screen Time Sweet Spot” that fits every family the same. Not at all. Rather, I believe that the boundaries we set up around screen time for our families are a personal decision, not to be judged by the next family over. It is something we all must take account of and decide for the good of our own family. The good news is that your kids can be a huge help in deciding what that healthy amount of media is for your family.

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I find that my children give me subtle hints as to when they’re spending too much time in front of a screen. Their tempers grow shorter, and they develop an entitlement mentality. When I say No, they push back or throw a tantrum. When we’ve been strictly limiting their media use, this is not the case. Rather, they observe TV as a treat, and one that Mom and Dad control, not them.

If you are wondering how much screen time is appropriate for your own family, here are 5 good questions to begin with:

  • “Is technology bringing our family closer together, or driving our family apart?” (Growing Up Social, Chapman and Pellicane)
  • Do my children act as if an hour in front of a screen is a gift, or something they are entitled to?
  • How do my children act when I tell them screen time is over? (If you’re met with tantrums, then consider scaling back. I find that the less time my kids spend with screens, the more OK they are when I turn them off)
  • Have we read books, played outside, or created something before turning on a screen?
  • Is screen time in my mind an occasional help, or a default go-to when I want to keep the kids occupied?

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Another quote I found helpful in Growing Up Social was this, “Although each family should use personal judgment on the amount of screen time, every family must set clear boundaries. Children always do better if they have clear boundaries. Screen time requires limits and parameters, or it will take over your child’s free time”.

It takes time, practice, and evaluation to discover a healthy balance of media for our families.  That has certainly been the case in our home. As we continue to evaluate our children’s behaviors and our own hearts, we are gaining a much clearer picture of how much screen time is ok for our family. And then of course, we must keep in mind that there is grace for setting aside those limits for a short time if we could use a little help.

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When mom is out of commission with morning sickness, or a new baby is welcomed home, or an adopted sibling arrives and is transitioning to a new home and family…or when mom uses improper form when stepping over a baby gate and throws out her back…there are plenty of examples of when those screen time limits can be set aside.

And then, when the waters calm and we get our feet back under ourselves again, we can set down that remote, and head outside for a picnic. We get back up again, dust ourselves off, and remember what this battle is worth…our kids’ childhoods. We reclaim those childhoods with each hour by wonderful hour that we spend outside, in a book, riding bikes, swimming at the beach, side by side making memories that thread together a legacy of a life well spent!

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growingupsocialsWin A Free Copy Of Growing Up Social, Raising Relational Children In A Screen-Driven World

Chapman and Pellicane’s book Growing Up social has played an integral part in my own understanding and practices of how screen time affects a family. In it, they share valuable research and information, complimented by relatable real-life stories, to help a family develop their own practices regarding media in their home. Win your own copy as a part of the #RedeemThe205 campaign!

 


Official Contest Rules and Regulations:

Must be 18 or older and resident of US or Canada to enter. Entrant is entered to win by filling out and submitting subscription form above. Contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. Contest closes on Sunday, August 14 at 11:59pm Mountain Time. Winner will be announced on Eryn Lynum’s Author Facebook Page on Monday, August 15. Winner will be contacted for shipping address.

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Breathe deep, weary mom. Sit down with a cup of tea, soak up some Scripture, and read the Proverbs like you never have before.

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