I’ve become THAT parent. You know, the one that says, “When I was your age…” My thirteen year old son frequently reminds my husband and I that he’s one of two kids in his grade that doesn’t have a cell phone. That’s when I whip it out. “When I was your age, we played outside. I didn’t even get a cell phone until I was married.” I realize times have changed drastically, and we have access to more technology than we’ve ever had. That’s not a bad thing. However, that’s why it’s more important than ever to establish boundaries in getting your kids off tech and outside doing other activities. Here’s a few guidelines we follow in our house to make sure screen time isn’t overtaking our days.
1. Be the example. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” The biggest way children learn is by watching us. If they see us spending most of our time in front of the computer screen, then they will want to follow suit.
2. Set boundaries. Kids act like boundaries are the worst thing ever, but boundaries actually give freedom, because they set the limits of where kids can go. If you have a technology lover in your house, set a timer and tell your child that he has one hour, or whatever time you decide, to play that video game until it goes off and it’s time to go outside.
3. Take regular technology breaks as a family. It’s so healthy to collectively step away from the screen for a period of time, and doing it as a family shows that you value each other. Announce to your kids ahead of time, so they can prepare themselves, and then spend the time hiking, playing games, and just being together.
4. Give some ideas on activities to do. There’s been countless times that my kids have said that they don’t know what to do when I say screen time is over. Give them ideas. Play badminton, give them a pretend play theme to engage in, take a book outside and read. Some of my kids favorite books right now are the Channing O’Banning series from Angela Spady and the Dreamtreaders series from Wayne Thomas Batson.
5. Teach them to value people. We do this two ways. Absolutely no electronic devices at the dinner table. It kills conversation when your head is too focused on winning a game or responding to an email rather than talking about the day’s events. The second way we do this is we put technology away when we have company over, even if it’s only adults. If an adult talks to a child and they don’t hear, because they’re too into the screen, then they are not valuing that person. Teaching them to value people will help them choose playing outside with their friends over staying locked up indoors by themselves.
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2
Technology is a good tool, but we’re charting into dangerous waters when we let our kids spend countless hours on it. We’re robbing them of the creativity and play that should come with childhood. We need to set them on the path to loving and valuing people over getting lost in technology land. Nature is too beautiful to miss out on!
How do you encourage your kids to turn off technology and get outside?