Rooted In Wonder:
Nurturing Your Family's Faith Through God's Creation
Master Naturalist, Bible teacher, author, wife, and mama of four! Join our adventures of discovering God while adventuring in creation.
I knew once I saw the number that I could not unsee it, although I wanted to.
I was deep in research, compiling numbers and averages for how much time a child today spends with a screen or device. Staring at my final number, I wanted to cry. Two hundred and five weeks. Two hundred and five waking weeks, to be precise. My mind went to those jars on my mantle, the ones holding 936 copper pennies, representing the number of weeks my husband and I will raise our children from the time they are born until their eighteenth birthday. I imagined dumping out 205 pennies and tossing them aside. My heart sank.
Knowledge is a powerful thing, especially when it pertains to something we are passionate about, or someone we love. Once I knew that, left to default, my children would spend 22 percent of their childhood with a screen, I knew I could not live the same. I also knew, as a mom myself, that the last thing us parents need is more guilt. What we need is a plan and some encouragement.
I knew I had to make a choice, day after day, to raise my children to be stewards of their screen time. In the years since I landed at that number, and it changed the trajectory of our days, we have certainly struggled. In this high-tech world, I believe that screens and media and the balance of it all will always be something families must battle with and reevaluate often. As my own family has done this, I have come to realize that there are three strategic ways we can raise our children to be Screen Time Stewards.
“Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom”, the Psalmist prays in Psalm 90:12. I believe this is key in teaching our children the value of their time. One of my boys turns seven this summer, and right now everything has a value. He is learning about math and money, and he ties a number or value to everything. “It would take me fifteen days to find that bead if I dropped it on the floor!” he told me tonight as I strung beads on a wire. “I think there are ten thousand ice cream trucks in the world!” he exclaimed after dinner. Numbers are big to him. But how can we teach our children that their days are one of the most important things they can number, and that we must assign a value to our time?
For my husband and me, it is those jars of 936 pennies, a visual reminder that our time to raise these children is limited, and we must invest well. What if we set before our child 24 pennies, to help them visualize the hours they have in a day? Then we can remove 8 of those pennies for time asleep. With 16 pennies left, how might our child feel if we removed another 6 pennies, representing the six hours on average a child spends with a screen a day? Visualization is powerful. What might happen if we challenged them to take just two of those pennies and invest them in screen-free activities instead?
In my book 936 Pennies I write, “Time doesn’t fly when you’re having fun—rather it slows, widens, breathes, and imprints itself on your history.”
Time escapes us when we sit in front of the television or with an Ipad in our hands. But we don’t want time to fly. We know all too well as parents that it already goes by too quickly. We want our children to savor childhood, and weigh it down with hours spent reading great stories, climbing the tree in the backyard, and walking side-by-side with us along the river. When we teach them to value their time, we teach them to invest it in the ingredients of a great childhood.
In her book The Read-Aloud Family author Sarah Mackenzie provides readers with ten open-ended questions that they can ask their children while reading books aloud together. I believe that the same questions can, and should, be asked about the programs we let our children watch. Questions like:
Open-ended questions such as these, where there is no wrong answer, help our children to dissect a story and get down to the roots of it. What is it about? What is it teaching them? What did they or did they not like about the story or characters? This takes television and movies beyond simple entertainment to lessons that can shape their perspectives on life.
When our child has learned to value their own time, and they know how to properly see past entertainment and to the ins and outs of a story, they begin to make different decisions when it comes to what they watch. No longer is their hour worth senseless entertainment, or something that leaves them feeling uncertain, afraid, or yucky.
PureFlix.com is a great resource and tool for parents aiming to raise Screen Time Stewards. They encourage parents with this on their blog:
“Limiting screen time doesn’t mean eliminating television. Digital media offers a wealth of information and has great benefits when used correctly. Movies can instill values and create memories of time snuggled together on family movie night. The trick is to ensure that time in front of the screen involves healthy, wholesome viewing to enhance your child’s life.”
As our children grow up assigning value to the things around them, may we teach them the importance of numbering their days, that they may gain a heart of wisdom in how they spend their time. May we redeem and protect their childhoods one hour at a time. And may we, in this tech saturated world, raise our kids to be Screen Time Stewards.
Raising kids stirs something deep in our souls — an innate knowing that our time is finite. Taking my kids outside in creation, I’m discovering how to stretch our time and pack it to the brim with meaning. God’s creativity provides the riches of resources for teaching the next generation who He is and how He loves us. Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!