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Limiting Media for Our Children

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This past weekend, I had the privilege of speaking at a gospel meeting in Lawton, OK. While there, I had dinner one evening with a family who really has given me a lot to think about when it comes to family and to child rearing. So... I thought I'd blog about it and see what you thought as well. 

Many of you know I've traveled the country speaking about the dangerous (as well as the benefits) of media. I've presented lessons on the Internet, the TV, music, computer, and even video games. I know the impact watching violence or sexual content has on those who ingest it, and I've encouraged and challenged parents and teens to go through their DVDs and throw out anything that would not pass the Philippians 4:8 litmus test.

I still stand by this.

However, this past weekend, our discussion wasn't about these issues, but rather on the time young people spend with media. For this good family, they have made the decision to allow tablet devices and iPod-type devices to be used by their children only two days a week (Fridays and Saturdays). Also, they can only be used for an hour on each of these days.

You might think that their children would have put on sad faces as their parents were explaining these restrictions to me, but that wasn't the case. The young ladies began smiling and telling me how it was more fun to get outside and ride their bikes than to sit inside and play on the game system. For these young ladies, it has gotten to the point that they are choosing to not play with the game systems as much, and opting to explore the great outdoors, using their imaginations and getting exercise. 

For our family, truth-be-told, we do better at times with limiting the amount of media than others. For us, it's not a matter of content. We don't have cable, opting instead for Netflix so we can avoid commercial and be more in control when it comes to what our children are exposed to. However, what this family has done has had me thinking ever since our conversation, "How much should we limit our children's media time usage?" 

In the article “Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent,” Nick Bilton writes:

"When Steve Jobs was running Apple, he was known to call journalists to either pat them on the back for a recent article or, more often than not, explain how they got it wrong. I was on the receiving end of a few of those calls. But nothing shocked me more than something Mr. Jobs said to me in late 2010 after he had finished chewing me out for something I had written about an iPad shortcoming.

'So, your kids must love the iPad?' I asked Mr. Jobs, trying to change the subject. The company’s first tablet was just hitting the shelves. 'They haven’t used it,' he told me. 'We limit how much technology our kids use at home.'

I’m sure I responded with a gasp and dumbfounded silence. I had imagined the Jobs’s household was like a nerd’s paradise: that the walls were giant touch screens, the dining table was made from tiles of iPads and that iPods were handed out to guests like chocolates on a pillow.

Nope, Mr. Jobs told me, not even close.

Since then, I’ve met a number of technology chief executives and venture capitalists who say similar things: they strictly limit their children’s screen time, often banning all gadgets on school nights, and allocating ascetic time limits on weekends.

I was perplexed by this parenting style. After all, most parents seem to take the opposite approach, letting their children bathe in the glow of tablets, smartphones and computers, day and night.

Yet these tech C.E.O.’s seem to know something that the rest of us don’t." ( Gonchar, Michael. Should Parents Limit How Much Time Children Spend on Tech Devices?. New York Times. September 15, 2014)

I find it very interesting that parents like Steve Jobs and his wife made the conscious decision to limit how much their children use technology in the home. In my mind, if anyone would have thought children should be on technology a lot it would be the people who've spent their lives creating technology; however, they must understand the effects of these devices they've created at a level that many parents do not. 

I've seen, and I'm sure you have as well, studies that show the more time a child spends in front of a screen, the more likely they are to struggle with attention, behavior, and grades. I've even seen studies that show how addicting a tablet, TV, or iPods can be - especially when a parent tries to take them away. These children will go beyond throwing fits to at times, being incapable of controlling themselves, recovering or moving on to another activity that doesn't require media. 

Back to this good family in OK - they specifically said this change was "Good for our family." I can only imagine how much time became available to participate in family building activities like game nights, putting puzzles together, and most importantly, family Bible time together. I can only imagine how much closer this family is to one another due to simply changing their media habits. 

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