Home Children's Ministry Leaders The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Screen Time for Kids

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Screen Time for Kids

screen time
My son, do not lose sight of these—keep sound wisdom and discretion,
and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck.”
(Proverbs 3:21-22, ESV)

I am a morning person. I love to wake up when the house is still quiet and tip-toe downstairs to brew my pour-over coffee. I then proceed to my leather chair with my Bible and stack of books. My favorite mornings are in the summer when the sun is rising, the birds are chirping, and the family is sleeping in.

Or at least they are supposed to be…

Last summer, I found it extremely difficult to get up before everyone else. I would sneak past the bedrooms and down the creaky stairs, into the kitchen, to start the water for my coffee. Yet, while I stood in the kitchen assuming I had risen before everyone else, I would hear the faint sound of voices. The kind of voices that seemed to be coming through small device speakers, slightly muffled, yet conveying some kind of pitchy energy over a crazy stunt or selfie-video showing off.

My kids (at least one of them, but sometimes two or three) would get up earlier than any kid should in the summer just to grab a cell phone, tablet or laptop. Like some kind of cyberspies, they hacked through our passwords or remembered them from the one time they looked over our shoulder, and voila they were in! I would find them by following the sound only to discover them curled up on the side of the couch, in the basement, or in their closet with the doors closed.

Talk about feeling like I was living with a bunch of addicts! They would sacrifice sweet sleep to take a hit before dawn and then slither into small places to feed their craving in hopes of not getting caught. This is when I decided to get to the bottom of the screen time addiction.  Was this just innocent entertainment or had they truly become dependent on devices?

What is the right amount of screen time a kid should have?

The New York Presbyterian Hospital research team reports that nearly half of all children 8 and under have their own tablet device. The Percentage only gets higher at 12 years old, and nearly every 16-year-old and above own their own device. That is millions of personally owned devices in the hands of our kids! The issue isn’t just about kids having these devices in the first place, it is about what they do with them.

With reports that kids nowadays spend an average of about 2.25 hours a day on digital screens, we need to consider what impact this time and devices are having on our kids. Let’s look at the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to screen time.

The Good

Screen time can have many positive benefits for children. In a world saturated by screens, kids need to know how to use and operate the technology that will inevitably become a part of their adult life. The bright spots that screen time offers kids are:

  • Connectivity: They can connect with parents, teachers, relatives, and friends over a device that used to cost a lot of money or take time. Now, with the press of a button, they can connect with anyone, anywhere.
  • Technology: Their technology navigation skills and overall tech know-how increased as they work on screens. This is a vital skill to make it in our ever-advancing world .
  • Exposure: It allows them to see things without traveling or leaving the comfort of home.
  • Learning: There is a wealth of educational content delivered on screens, but it takes careful curation by us, as parents, to ensure our kids are accessing good content, not negative content. They can learn good or bad things.
  • Tracking: Healthy behaviors, such as reading, learning, and practicing can be tracked with the use of apps. For instance, kids can track their reading minutes, employ step counters, or encounter daily inspirational messages that support their faith and spirituality.
  • Reasoning: Parents have to remember that kids aren’t equipped with the skills needed to critically assess different types of screen content. Parents and proper guidelines or safeguards can help children to learn how to make wise decisions.