A new report showed that American teenagers spend approximately nine hours a day of screen time. You read that right: nine hours! This accounts for daily use of “tablets, smartphones, personal computers, multimedia devices, video games, radios, DVDs, DVRs and TVs.”
Before we scold these out-of-control teens, hear the other news. Another report by the Nielson Company revealed that adults are even worse, spending an average of 10 hours and 39 minutes of daily screen time.
Now, we must admit that not all of this screen time is purely recreational. Many students are required for schoolwork to spend time at a screen, and for many adults, screen time is part of their jobs.
If we are really honest, though, much, if not a most, of our daily screen time is optional and recreational. That is why Christians, now more than ever, must pay special attention to our behavior when it comes to the devices we and our children and grandchildren own. For those of us prone toward too much screen time, I recommend three things:
1. Set up a filter
All of this screen time not only distracts from the people and things going on around us directly, luring us away from what could be most important and urgent. Screens also become a delivery mechanism for dangerous content, like pornography. I highly recommend a content filter for every man, woman and child who surfs the Internet.
Two of the best content filters I have found are Covenant Eyes, which offers content filter and peer accountability, and the Qustodio App, which offers a content filter and powerful parental control options.
Jesus said, “What would it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” Inspired by our Master’s words, we can say, “What would it profit a person to gain the whole World Wide Web and lose his soul?” Sure, you will give up some web content with a filter, but that’s the price of purity.
2. Set boundaries
Christians must take serious stock of how much time we’re spending with our screens. To discover this, you could do your own calculations. You could get an app that tells you the time you spend. Or you could simply ask your spouse or your child or a trusted friend who sees you daily if you seem to be stuck behind a screen a great deal of the day.
Once we have taken stock of all these hours, ask a trusted person to keep you accountable. This does not mean necessarily that person nagging you every time you are caught with your face in a screen. It could be as simple as having the person ask you daily or weekly if you are doing better.
3. Set it aside
It could be the dinner table. It could be a certain time of day. Pick a designated time each day to set your phone or other device down. For example, one expert recommended, when you go out to eat, leave your phones in the car. Sure, you might miss a text message or call, but wouldn’t that be better than missing so much of life?
In the end, the rise of all this screen time is like any new technology trend that comes along. Technology brings with it convenience but also a need to regulate human behavior related to it.
Whether you spend 10 hours a day sitting in front of a screen or not, nearly every one of us could do with less time in front of the screen and more time at the feet of the Savior.