For the good of our health
Our children have just entered their teen years. Many of their friends have smartphones and use them constantly. It seems as if we are fighting a losing battle to manage their use wisely, and also keep to what we judge is reasonable exposure to screen time. Should we keep trying?
Most certainly, yes! We are living in the most connected era of all time. Yet it seems that people are talking meaningfully and deeply with each other less and less. We recently watched a family enter an airport lounge—mother, father, and four children ages ranging from about 4 to 16 years. As they circulated looking for seating, the 4-year-old, angrily waving his smartphone, was repeatedly shouting: “I need Wi-Fi connection!” The older children had “tuned out” the scenario as they listened to music through their noise-canceling earphones.
It’s not uncommon to see families in restaurants glued to their devices. Perhaps they are texting each other? We hope so, because they don’t often speak.
Social media is helpful in keeping friends informed and updated. The Internet provides a treasure trove of helpful information at our fingertips. These advances need to be discerningly, carefully, and wisely used. For all the good information out there, dangerous and damaging disinformation also exists. Additionally, the way these tools are used can lead to unwanted consequences, including “Facebook depression,” cyberbullying, pornography, and screen addiction.
• Taking phones to bed is unhealthy, depriving us of sleep and rest.
• Incoming alerts can disturb sleep and increase the concern of “missing out” on what’s happening, therefore raising anxiety. Increased daytime tiredness follows.
• Increased anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem follow inadequate sleep.
• Unmanaged and bedtime social media use can specifically increase pressure to be available at all times and further disrupt healthy sleep.
• Dedicated, device-free family times are needed on a regular basis. Family meals provide such an opportunity and yield healthful benefits.
Keep working to keep screen time optimized and healthy in the family. Parents need to lead by example. Our children may wish that parents would get off their screens and just talk with them.
We recommend an excellent edition of Adventist Review, available in the online archives. It is themed “Rearing Children in a Technological World: What to Do, What to Avoid,” October 27, 2011. It is informative, balanced, and an excellent resource—all the more relevant today than when it was first published.
When it comes to God’s wise instructions, God’s people should “impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deut. 6:7, NIV).
Let’s keep speaking with our children, communicating with them, unconditionally loving them, and even understanding them. They are the church of today—and they are worth it!