Moderation and Self-discipline

All things in moderation. Good luck with that. Here’s how to encourage your child toward their own self-policing when it comes to technology.

Screen Time During COVID-19 and Summer

Happy Boy Running Through Sprinkler

Are you noticing your children spend more time online since COVID-19 and summer is upon us? A recent Wall Street Journal opinion (behind paywall), “Save Your Kids From Covid’s Digital Deluge,” addresses the topic of screen time. “Now is the time to break the trance of digital distraction” your children may be facing, encourages the writer Arlene Pellicane.

We frequently hear this reasonable, benign suggestion. Our children spend inordinate amounts of time in front of a screen for many reasons. We have many motivations for allowing it:

We want our children to feel good, and that’s why we often go easy on them. But maybe they’ll feel better if we require them to do good—help cook dinner, sweep the kitchen floor, read books, run outside, write a letter to grandma. – Arlene Pellicane

Ms. Pellicane’s point is sound. As our children engage in productive activities, they become productive people. Childhood and young adulthood are all about becoming. But primarily about learning how they fit into God’s kingdom.

Boiling spaghetti noodles for dinner or baking boxed brownies for dad’s birthday is a service to the family. Sweeping a kitchen floor may be about learning to respect authority. Reading books may encourage virtues, reveal ways to overcome struggles, and elicit flights of imagination. Running outdoors offers increased stamina and powers of observation, not to mention improved eyesight (through distance vision). Writing a letter to grandma shows respect to elders.

Let’s not forget why these activities are fundamentally valuable.  It’s not:  “When children take responsibility their self-esteem improves.” (Pellicane)  It is because they are spiritually valuable as well.

Self-esteem has its uses, but it ranks beneath developing one’s commitment to God. When children serve, learn and respect, they are gaining a foundation for a life lived in service to God. Their actions are beneficial and constructive for the kingdom. They take responsibility in order to serve their Creator–and in the end may also notice peripheral benefit to themselves.

Learning practical skills like courtesy, mentioned by Pellicane, is time well spent during COVID-19 and summer. But again: Imagine if your children also learned the deeper spiritual lesson of the practical skill. What is more practical than knowing for Whom one is ultimately living?  What is more valuable than learning to keep one’s eyes on God’s glory and grace as they learn, strive, step forward, miss the mark and strive again?

Sure, teach kids practical skills during lockdowns and summer break. But don’t forget to share the deeper reason they will want to do all those worthwhile things: to serve the Lord. To do it all for the Glory of God.

That just makes common sense if you’re a Bible-believing family, while making your children pleasantly uncommon.

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Saturday with Kids and Their Technology.

Technology: The Childhood Distraction

Lessen the Volume

Please keep it down!

Kids (agreeably): OK, Mom. (noise continues)4678498113 f95e807230 400x265 - Lessen the Volume

(You repeat) Keep it down! 

Are your children typically boisterous in the house?  Expect the noisy trend to continue and grow when they play multi-player action/adventure video games.

If they play this game genre now, and the above conversation is familiar to you, the pattern has likely already been set. It will take some effort on your part to re-set it. They have become conditioned to screaming and cheering, moaning and groaning when their character is attacked by monsters, they discover diamonds, or another character tricks them.  They are typically innocently unaware of the volume of their racket.

These competitive games played with others can also bring out bursts of anger, either from themselves or their online “friends.” Other children playing with regularity often have an intensity that is heightened by winning and, of course, losing.  It becomes important to point out to your children that if they play with someone who is too regularly angry, they will want to avoid that influence.  Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go. (Prov 22:24)

Retraining entails reminding them (when they are not playing, and each time before they play) that playing video games in the house is the same as other inside activities—board games, building projects, crafting, and the like.  Conversation should be muted out of respect for others.   If they learn early to modulate their responses to reduce their raucousness, by the time they are teens they will be more likely to show self-awareness and self-control.

Resist the urge to move their computer into a far corner of the house to avoid the noise!  Train your children up, instead, to manage themselves, and the family may remain closer. Staying within earshot also allows you all kinds of insight into their problems and potential relating to gaming—but that is for another post.

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Photo by cc - Lessen the Volume Kenny Louie via Compfight

Top Ten Ways to Discourage Video Game Addiction

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Is the Game Never Over?

Updated 7/28/2020

Here are ten ways to make a dent in Johnny’s (or Janie’s) video game time–even during COVID-19!

Watch out–you may notice a little bit of yourself among them.

10.  Smash his Xbox; take a picture for your fridge.

9.  Set play-time limits on his Nintendo Switch. When time expires, prepare him for bachelorhood by teaching him how to vacuum.

8.  Demand he stop playing Roblox, wielding your vast positional authority as his parent.

7.  Coax him to read Great Expectations, employing only your potent personal power.

6.  Beg him to stop in the whiniest voice you can muster—that voice you once used on your parents.

5.  Trick him into stopping (your favorite sourdough bread is on the table with dinner!) then hide his controller.

4.  Insist your spouse make him stop.

3.  Offer him more time with video games later (when you need him occupied) if he stops now (when you are aggravated).

2.  Prod him toward creative, productive or service projects using your vast free time.

1.  Leave him alone, with all video games and technology turned off, and witness his inspiringly creative self-management;
take a picture for your fridge.

For a little more serious help, consider “Does My Child Have a Video Game Addiction?” How to Set Limits Around Video Game Use”

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Photo by Philip Wels via Compfight

Technology: The Childhood Distraction

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4581962986 2cb5ea4ef4 - Technology: The Childhood Distraction

From Illuminated Screen to Illuminated Mind

Updated 6/12/2020

Is it any surprise that technology has become as much a distraction for children (with their Nintendo Switch, iPod or burner iPhone) as it has for adults? How can children practice hearing the nudges of God—which may sound like help this friend, play happily in nature, read to learn what is true—when access to instant entertainment entices and ringtones beckon?

Overlay Distraction with Thinking

There are ways to help your children distance themselves from the siren call. You can inspire them to engage in thoughtful–thinking–activities.

For example, show them a newspaper, magazine article or Bible verse you noticed and share a memorable point. Let them read any picture caption and tell you what it means to them. After that, ask them to relate it to their own life. Extend it by suggesting they look up a word in the dictionary (the book variety), which often leads to finding other interesting words.  Or find related pictures in a reference book you own. Help your children make connections and extract interesting aspects for their level. Then allow them to articulate their imaginative ideas or responses. This process will help them create a habit of thinking more deeply about things. For older children, an informal research process like this can intrigue them to learn more online and play less online.

Your Own Parental Distraction

You may also want to notice how much of their thought life you pay attention to. Notice and verbally acknowledge when your child has formed a complex idea requiring attention. Then sincerely praise the most interesting aspect of it. And, of course, encourage others like it. By talking with your children about their thought life, they will be encouraged by your recognition and probably attempt more of it. Goodness knows, the world needs more critical thinking. By engaging them with opportunities to think more deeply, they will be better inured to distractions caused by available technology. Or, at a minimum, they may begin to use their screen time for more productive learning activities.

And finally, a vital  reminder: Set down your own technology (or other distractions) while attempting these tactics and prepare to be engaged yourself.  Check out

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Photo cc - Technology: The Childhood Distraction Steve Paine via Compfight