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BIBLICAL WISDOM FOR PARENTS

IN THE GLOW OF SCREENS Many parents today are concerned about the influence of screens on their children. When should kids be allowed their own smartphones? What rules should govern screen usage? How do we prevent screen addiction? Join author Ruth Wan-Lau in applying the wisdom of God’s Word to challenges of screens in our children’s lives. Discover how you can disciple your children to honour God in all they say and do online. Ruth Wan-Lau is the author of the popular Timmy and Tammy series for pre-schoolers. She has worked in public communications and as a writer and editor for 18 years, and is currently working at Our Daily Bread Ministries, Singapore. She and her husband, Peet, have three children, Daniel, Benjamin, and Esther, and their dog, Pebble, is the cutest thing in the world.

HelP! MY CHILD

WANTS MORE SCREEN TIME

Discovery Series presents biblical insights for all areas of life. To read any of over 100 titles, visit discoveryseries.org.

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Ruth Wan-Lau


introduction

Children and Screens

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ou should let your children watch as much TV as they want!”

This was the advice given by one of my neighbours a decade ago. “They’ll learn a lot, and become very smart!” she said earnestly. I nodded politely, but forgot her words amid the busyness of parenting a toddler. A decade later, new screen devices are eclipsing the popularity of TV. Kids now hanker after the latest smartphones and tablets, and it is now common to see kids hunched over screens during playdates, social events, and 1


family dinners. I often wonder: would my neighbour still urge me to let my children have as much screen time as they want in today’s world? Unlike TV, the latest screens can be used for all sorts of things, anywhere and anytime. Kids use them to research school projects and chat with friends. Kids also use screens to entertain themselves, playing immersive games, watching on-demand programmes, listening to music, or simply scrolling through social media feeds. These days, a click and a swipe are pretty much all you need in order to gain knowledge, communicate, socialise, and be entertained. This may sound wonderful to some, but there are also potential dangers. “I’m going to confiscate your phone for three days,” Suzanne said. “Mum!” 11-year-old Dylan wailed. “I can’t live without my phone! If you take it away, I might as well die!” Suzanne felt a tight knot form in her stomach. Dylan began to cry, and she felt like crying too. “How can this phone mean so much to my son?” she wondered.

Many parents feel anxious when it comes to screens. When should I let my kids have their own mobile phone? What rules should I have for screen usage? How do I stop screen addiction? These are just a few of the questions they have. As Christian parents, we are our children’s spiritual 2

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guardians—we are called to disciple our children and teach them God’s ways. Proverbs 22:6 tells us to “start children off on the way they should go”; this would include guiding them on the use of screens. In addition, God’s Word reminds us of the kind of love that should reside in our hearts as we guide our children—a love that is patient, kind, and humble, a love that isn’t easily angered, that always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4–7). As we look at how to lovingly guide our kids, it is important to realise that screens are merely a platform. They can be a positive enabler or a dangerous tool. It is what our kids choose to do with them that determines their positive or negative value. A second thing to realise is that the most vital step to take is not a set of rules we put in place or words we say to our kids: it’s prayer. So, before we dive in, let’s pray for our children to have teachable hearts (Proverbs 13:1), and let’s pray for ourselves too. Are we currently addressing the issue of screen time in a manner that is unhelpful to our kids? Do we feel like giving up because it just seems too hard to get our kids to understand? Take heart! Let’s come back to God, admitting our weaknesses and challenges. He is our great comforter and generous counsellor, the only one who can redeem us and our kids. Let’s ask Him to grant us humble hearts that fear Him first, and to give us wisdom to lovingly and effectively communicate His truths to our children. In this booklet, we will look at the four main functions

Introduction: Children and Screens

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of screens as channels for (a) knowledge, (b) communication, (c) socialising, and (d) entertainment—and how we can help our children apply wisdom from God’s Word in each case. Also included are conversation starters for you to use with your kids, because building up godly wisdom comes through regular interaction. At the end of this booklet are some practical steps for parents to consider. Let’s explore this together. Ruth Wan-Lau

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contents one

A Channel of Knowledge .

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A Channel of Instant Communication . 13 three

A Channel of Social Communication .

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A Channel for Entertainment . . five

Practical Tips .

EDITORS: Chia Poh Fang, Amos Khan, Leslie Koh COVER DESIGN: Mary Tham COVER IMAGE: Shutterstock INTERIOR DESIGN: Mary Tham INTERIOR IMAGES: Shutterstock All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. All rights reserved © 2019 Our Daily Bread Ministries Printed in Singapore


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A Channel of Knowledge

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um, look at my presentation!” Clarence said proudly. The 12-yearold had prepared a presentation on environmental problems in India for his geography class, and had found detailed statistics, pictures, and video clips online. “You put this together in two hours? It looks professional!” said his mum, Winnie. “Yes, I just searched the internet,” Clarence replied. “It was easy!” It’s mind-boggling just how much information can be found online. Today, children have unprecedented access to a universe of knowledge online. As a result, 7


younger kids can learn to read, write, and count on screens, while older kids can use apps to solve algebra problems or pick up drumming through video tutorials. There are countless websites on current affairs, history, arts and culture, and science and technology—many of them geared towards children. Screens are becoming our children’s primary way of accessing knowledge. Don’t know how to boil an egg? Want to learn more about your favourite band? Need to find the best public transport route to a new place? Just google it! Children are turning to screens as their go-to, first-stop, real-time source of knowledge. Having access to information can be helpful, but more knowledge does not necessarily mean more wisdom. God’s Word tells us what wisdom is: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Proverbs 9:10)

The heart of wisdom is fear of the Lord. A wise person desires to please God in thought, word, and deed. Being wise means being able to discern what pleases God. How does this apply to our discussion on screens? Knowledge appears on screens in the form of text, images, video, and music. Helping our children become wise means guiding them to understand that not everything we see on screen honours God. Wisdom includes making God-pleasing choices regarding what we view on our screens, because we want to honour God above all else. 8

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Children love to learn and explore. Their curiosity knows no bounds. But knowledge without Godpleasing discernment can be a recipe for disaster. Seven-year-old Alyssa often played with Caden at school. Some of their classmates teased them, saying, “Caden is Alyssa’s boyfriend!” They made kissing sounds whenever the two walked by. One day, Alyssa looked up “kiss” on the internet using her father’s tablet. “What are you looking at?” Joe, Alyssa’s father, was horrified to find her watching a video she had clicked on innocently.

In a world of easily-accessed knowledge, it becomes all the more important for us to nurture godly wisdom in our children, and to start early. The greater their access to knowledge, the greater their need for wisdom. Parental controls and filters that prevent our kids from accessing age-inappropriate material may be useful, but they are not foolproof; more importantly, they do not develop wisdom in our children’s hearts. Ultimately, it is a wise heart—the ability to discern what pleases God and what doesn’t—that will serve as the foundation for making God-honouring choices on their own.

Talk to your kids To nurture God-pleasing discernment, we need to engage our children through ongoing conversation. Try talking about these topics with your kids:

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a. Knowledge is prized, but having the wisdom to honour God is greater. What’s the difference between knowledge and wisdom? Discuss some examples that will show the difference clearly. What does the Bible say about where wisdom comes from? b. Not everything you read, look at, or listen to will honour God. Ask your children about things they’ve come across on their screen that may not be honouring to God. Read through a news website together with your child and discuss why it may not be God-pleasing to click on every news article, flashing ad, and video clip that pops up. Discuss what you can do when you come across something that dishonours God. c. Just because you can click on something doesn’t mean you should. What’s the difference between “can” and “should”? Do you consider God when deciding to do something? d. If we’re not sure whether something is wise, to whom should we turn? Make it clear to your children that you are their first-stop, go-to, realtime source of wisdom. And that your source of wisdom is the Bible—not the internet.

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Pray Lord, may I be a channel of Your wisdom. Show me how to teach my kids to fear You, please You, and honour You above all else. I pray for teachable moments and healthy discussions with my kids. May they prize wisdom above knowledge and grow in God-pleasing discernment regarding what they read, see, and listen to on their screens.

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A Channel of Instant Communication

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creens are not just becoming our children’s primary source of knowledge. Increasingly, they are becoming our children’s primary means of communication.

One standout characteristic of screen communication is that it is instant. This can help to nurture family bonds. For example, while we parents are overseas, we can use instant video or audio communication apps to stay in contact with our children. Unfortunately, instant communication also means constant communication; our ability to connect immediately has become a need to stay connected all the time. As a result of being constantly 13


online—scrolling through an endless list of amusements, for instance—there is a tendency for us to forget a vital biblical truth: time is not limitless. In Psalms, Moses prays: Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

Being wise means knowing that time is limited and choosing to spend it in a balanced, God-honouring manner. When children spend too much time on their screens, they may lose out on three key opportunities, as discussed below.

1. Spending time with family Firstly, our children may be losing out on opportunities to build strong family bonds, especially with us, their parents. When picking our children up from school, do they decline to engage in conversation because they are on their phones? Or, when having a family meal, do our children ignore questions because they are busy messaging their friends? Being physically together—in the same car or at the same dinner table—while remaining worlds apart can weaken family bonds. When our children spend more time on their screens than with us, we lose out on vital opportunities to shine God’s light into their lives. When 14-year-old Jeremy witnessed someone being bullied at school, he secretly took a video of it on his 14

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phone. The school had reminded students to report any bullying, but he was scared the bullies would find out he was the one responsible. “How was school today?” Rose, Jeremy’s mum, asked as he walked through the door. Instead of replying, Jeremy opened up his instant messaging app and sent the video to his friends. “What should I do?” he typed. Instantly, the replies started flowing in. One friend typed: “LOL” (laugh out loud). Other replies were similar. “Is something wrong?” Rose asked, but Jeremy ignored her. “Most of my friends are reacting lightly to the video,” he thought. “I guess I won’t report it then.” And with that, he deleted the video.

Could a reliance on instant communication be contributing to a breakdown of interaction between our children and us? Could we be missing out on opportunities to influence our children’s lives, mentoring them in a Godhonouring manner, especially in situations where they most need our guidance? While there is nothing wrong with our kids asking friends for advice, we want to build strong relationships with them so that they will take our advice to heart. This can be challenging if family bonds are weak.

2. Spending time with God Secondly, instant communication can affect our children’s spiritual growth. When flooded by instant content on their screens, the natural instinct is to view it immediately.

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Eleven-year-old Chloe was fidgety. Peter, her dad, had a “no handphone” rule during church service, but every few seconds, she felt like checking her phone. Just then, Chloe’s friend, Phoebe, who was sitting next to her, took out her phone and started checking her messages. Encouraged, Chloe reached for her own phone. “I can’t concentrate on what the pastor’s saying, so I might as well check my messages, right?” she thought.

Instant communication can lead to a more distracted, less God-focused life. There is a saying that goes: “If Jesus is not Lord of the moments, He is not Lord at all.” Are screens distracting our children from their relationship with the most important person in their lives—our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? Are they delighting in the instant, constant connection they have with their friends more than the instant, constant connection they have with Him? Our relationship with God is restored when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, believing that He died on the cross for us and took away our sins. But it doesn’t stop there. This relationship is nurtured when we remain in Him daily, moment-by-moment, listening and meditating on His Word, praying, and singing songs of praise—not just at church, but also at home; on a daily basis; and not half-heartedly, but in earnest. Jesus is our vine and we are the branches. He has told us that if we remain in Him, we will bear much fruit; but apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5). 16

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3. Physical rest Finally, constant communication can lead to missing out on physical rest. The blue light from screens and the dopamine rush that digital content triggers in our children’s brains can keep them awake even when they are exhausted. Much research has been done on the negative effects today’s screens have on children and, in particular, their sleep patterns. There is also the biblical perspective: restorative sleep is a blessing from God (Psalm 127:2). Are our children losing precious sleep and becoming less able to concentrate on their God-given tasks during the day?

Talk to your kids The more distracted children are digitally, the more distant they become and the more sleep-deprived. Find ways to proactively highlight to your kids the biblical truth that time is limited and therefore needs to be spent in a balanced manner. Try these conversation starters: a. Time is limited. Use it wisely. Read Psalm 90:12 together. What does it mean to “number our days”? Are you spending your time wisely moment-by-moment? b. Protect and strengthen family bonds. Develop a set of family values with your children, including “regular family time” and “transparency”. Discuss why these are important in building a strong family and why they should have priority over screen time.

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c. Establish screen-free time with family and God. Decide when to have regular screen-free time with the family and with God. During these times, play a game with your children where first one to reach for his device gets a penalty, e.g., he has to wash the dishes or give everybody a backrub. d. Make growing in God first priority. Read John 15:5 together. Discuss practical ways to remain in Christ moment-by-moment. Is the time you spend on your phone helping you to remain in Christ? e. Establish screen-free time before bedtime. Show your children articles about the negative effects of screen time on sleep and discuss the main points with them. Discuss when your children should shut their devices off and park them in a public place each evening.

Pray Lord, help me to effectively communicate to my children the opportunity costs of being on their screens for too long. Give me the wisdom to hold healthy discussions about the need to number our days, to build family bonds, to grow in You, and to get sufficient rest. May my children be convicted by Your Word, and may Your wisdom prevail over their use of screens. 18

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A Channel of Social Communication

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hildren use screens not only to communicate, but also to socialise. In previous generations, friends might have gone out together for social activities like playing basketball or checking out a new restaurant. These days, children often meet online to play games (which may include online basketball!) or chat on social media apps, instead of meeting up for meals. Screens are becoming our children’s primary channel for social engagement.

In the previous chapter, we discussed the opportunity costs of time spent online. In this chapter, we’ll look at 19


three typical characteristics of screen communication, before turning to God’s Word for guidance.

1. Informal The first thing to note is that screen communication tends to be informal. Users type, post, share, and forward content rapidly without giving much thought to what they’re doing. One indication of the informal nature of screen communication is the sheer volume of information being traded online. While us parents may baulk at this tsunami of digital content, digital natives like our children find it perfectly normal. The online world is one gigantic, informal space where our children love to socialise. Trading emojis, memes, images, video clips, and one-liners or playing massive multiplayer online games are our children’s version of hanging out together and shooting the breeze.

2. Unfiltered Secondly, screen communication tends to be unfiltered. When communicating from behind a screen, we often grow uninhibited in what we say and do, even if we would never say and do such things in person. This explosive combination of instant, informal, and unfiltered has led to a rise in online rage, and it is now common for “flame wars” to erupt over email, instant messaging, and social media at the slightest provocation. 20

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3. Lacking accountability Thirdly, screen communication encourages a lack of accountability. For example, instant messages can be deleted, content on apps disappears after a while, and social media and email accounts can be made untraceable. This has led to a rise in trolling, spamming, cyberbullying, and the circulation of unsavoury material online. The equation seems to be: Relative anonymity = no consequence = no holds barred

Biblical principles for socialising online Screens open up a world of instant, informal, uninhibited, and relatively anonymous communication. The internet is a chaotic space where our children can potentially do and say whatever they want—and get away with it. What biblical wisdom can guide our children as they navigate this space? Consider what Jesus says in Matthew 12:36: But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.

The phrase “every empty word” has been described by Bible scholars as meaning every idle and useless word we say, every vain and profitless conversation, and every wicked, false, or malicious accusation. Let’s pause and reflect on how much of what our kids communicate via screens can be considered “empty words”. If one could write a modern version of Matthew 12:36, it might go

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something like: “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for everything they have typed, posted, forwarded, clicked on, and swiped on their screens.” So, how can our children socialise wisely online? Being wise means knowing that we remain accountable to God for everything we say and do online. Something that is dishonouring to God doesn’t become okay just because no one is likely to find out. Being wise also means applying the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) when we are online, asking: Would I want someone to type, post, or forward this about me? If not, then I shouldn’t do it to them. Some feel that highlighting such verses to our children comes across as us parents threatening them to “behave”, otherwise God will “punish” them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our desire as parents is to humbly present the whole counsel of God’s Word to our children so that they may develop a fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom. This fear of the Lord must be based on the understanding that while God is love and He extends grace through the sacrifice of His own Son Jesus, God is also holy. And this holy God holds us to account. When we present God’s unchanging principles as seen in His Word to our children, let’s be careful not to do it in a manner that makes them feel frustrated. Rather, let’s share God’s truths with gentleness, humbly seeking to implant God’s principles into our children’s hearts, and prayerfully desiring the best for our children, which can only be 22

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found through following God’s ways wholeheartedly.

Talk to your kids Seize opportunities to have open dialogue with your kids about the issues raised in this chapter, so that you may encourage them to develop a consistent, God-pleasing attitude online: a. What have you seen on your screens that might displease God? Ask your kids if they’ve ever observed or been part of a “flame war”. Discuss the experience and ways to avoid such situations in the future. b. We are accountable to God for what we do and say online. Read Matthew 12:36 together. Discuss the last few status updates your child has posted online, or the recent content of a group chat he’s part of. How can we avoid getting involved in a conversation of “empty words”? Read Ephesians 4:29 together. What can we do to ensure that our screen behaviour is wholesome and full of grace? c. What are some examples of cyberbullying you’ve observed or experienced? Read Matthew 7:12 together. How would the Golden Rule apply in such a scenario?

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Pray Lord, grant me opportunities to have healthy discussions with my kids. May they please You when using their screens, knowing that they are accountable to You for what they do and say online. Help them to follow the Golden Rule in their communications, and may their words be always filled with grace.

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A Channel for Entertainment

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o far, we have looked at how screens are becoming our children’s primary channel of knowledge, communication, and socialising. In addition, screens are becoming their primary channel for entertainment and media consumption. While there are many benefits to this, we also need to be aware of the dangers.

Shifting worldviews Firstly, our children could be absorbing undesirable worldly values via their screens. Social media apps like 25


Instagram and Snapchat and entertainment media apps like YouTube and iTunes offer a wide range of media content, from photos and music to videos and movies—all of which can influence our children’s worldview. Ten-year-old Sarah loved following celebrities on their social media accounts. She marvelled at their handbags and clothes. “This actress has such amazing skin!” Sarah gasped as she scrolled through some photos. “Why can’t I have a figure like that?” She wondered how to lose more weight.

The type of media our children consume influences how they think, feel, and behave. It can change what they view as acceptable, desirable, and valuable, and how they perceive others and themselves. Research has shown that social media encourages comparison and feeds the need for validation via affirmation from others. As a result, being active on social media can lead to greater discontentment with one’s own life. Our children need to learn how to swim against the current or they’ll be swept away by a torrent of digital media. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:22–23: The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 26

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Our Lord reminds us to carefully guard what enters our hearts and minds by watching what we consume with our senses. Being wise means assessing everything you encounter by the light of God’s Word, instead of just going with the flow. It means caring more about God’s approval than that of friends and online “followers”. It means constantly evaluating the messages we receive from the content constantly appearing on our screens. What does God’s Word say about such messages?

Addiction While a bit of entertainment can help relieve stress, that provided by today’s screens can be addictive. For example, online and video games are not only visually stimulating and immersive, but are often designed to reward players in a way that encourages them to keep on playing. Nine-year-old Caleb threw his schoolbag down. He had a ton of homework to complete, but instead of hitting the books, he hit the “play” button on his game console. “A little entertainment will help me study better!” he reasoned. Before he knew it, three hours had flown by and he was still playing his video game.

Games are just one of the many addictive entertainment options available on screens. Others include cartoons, video clips, TV shows, and movies, which can be watched via streaming services like Netflix or online

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media channels like YouTube. Some may ask: Won’t my children simply grow out of all this childish desire for screen time, if I just wait it out? The unfortunate truth is that screen addiction is becoming increasingly mainstream and it is affecting younger and younger children of both genders with each passing year. Research has shown that addiction can change the way the brain works, and once changed, it becomes harder to break addictive behaviour. Therefore, the role of parents in guiding their children has become all the more vital. In contrast to the siren call of screen entertainment, God’s Word calls for His people to develop self-control as part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Paul writes: For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11–14)

God’s grace, given through His Son Jesus Christ who died for us on the cross, saves us from eternal punishment. This gift of grace enables us to reject what the world offers and to exercise self-control. How does this work? As we experience more of God in our daily walk with Him, we will find ourselves needing less of what 28

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the world offers us—including the deluge of escapist, sensationalist, and self-seeking entertainment. With Jesus as our secure anchor, we can lead “self-controlled, upright and godly lives” (Titus 2:11). So, what do our children need to stand firm against the strong tide of screen addiction? They need the soul-stirring fullness of Christ, which will quench their spiritual thirst and help them guard against the fleshstirring, worldly temptation to forget eternity and lose control here and now. Being wise is knowing that the fullness of Christ is more than sufficient for us. Our children need the gospel.

Talk to your kids Find ways to discuss the following topics as part of everyday talk. Help your kids realise that the Bible has something to say about the world’s entertainment and its values, and help them swim against the current: a. Be aware that media comes with messaging. Look at photos on a social media feed, listen to a popular song, or watch a movie together. Discuss the messages conveyed within. What are you being told is acceptable, desirable, and valuable? Assess everything in the light of God’s Word. Don’t just go with the flow. What does God’s Word say about these messages? Does God’s Word say that these things are acceptable, desirable, and valuable? How are you tempted to respond to these messages, and how should you

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respond in the light of God’s Word? b. Guard what enters our hearts and minds. Read Matthew 6:22–23 together. Discuss why it is important to guard what enters our senses. c. Do not be mastered by anything. Build up selfcontrol. Read Galatians 5:22 together. Discuss what self-control means in terms of screen time and screen choices. How can you tell if someone has self-control when using screens? What can you do to exercise self-control when using screens? d. Share what the gospel means. Ask your child what screens mean to them, and compare this with what the gospel offers. Help them to see that we have all we need in Jesus. Where should we turn to for true security and affirmation? Encourage your children to turn to Christ, not to screens; to God’s Word, not to the words on social media or group chats; and to bow their heads in prayer, not bury them in their phones.

Pray Lord, help my children to question media messages in the light of Your Word. May they not be mastered by their screens, but have godly self-control. May they be enthralled by the fullness of Christ, so that they will not be addicted to the insufficiency of screen entertainment. 30

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Practical Tips

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elp! Our kids want more screen time! And with screen time comes a whole world of knowledge, instant communication, socialising, and entertainment. If you are feeling anxious about your child’s screen time, then remember: it is never too early and never too late to start guiding your child in this area. In fact, there is no better time for intentional parenting than now. Here’s a summary of what we’ve discussed so far, followed by some practical tips.

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Truths about the screen • The screen offers knowledge, but wisdom is needed to discern what is God-pleasing and what isn’t. • The screen enables instant communication, but being connected all the time has opportunity costs. Let’s make time for family, God, and rest. • The screen enables socialising, but let’s honour God with what we say and do online. • The screen offers entertainment, but the fullness of Christ offers eternal life. Let’s assess media messages in the light of God’s Word and exercise self-control.

A biblical perspective of the screen Being wise means: 1. Being able to discern what would please God online. 2. Being aware that time is limited and choosing to spend it in a balanced manner. 3. Knowing that we are accountable to God for everything we say and do online. 4. Knowing that something that dishonours God doesn’t become okay just because no one is likely to find out. 5. Assessing everything we encounter online in the light of God’s Word, instead of just going with the flow. 6. Knowing that the fullness of Christ is more than sufficient for us. 32

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Practical tips Here are some practical tips that you can use to guide your children on screen time: 1. Draw up a set of screen rules, just as you might have rules for good manners or helping with chores. Include limits on screen usage by time (e.g., no more than a certain number of minutes per day or per week, and no using screens after a certain time), type (e.g., no downloading new apps or playing certain games without permission), and location (e.g., no using screens in bedrooms). Be strict at first, but let your kids know that you will grant more autonomy if they earn your trust. Keep one rule non-negotiable: you must know your child’s passwords for all devices and accounts. 2. Use parental controls to restrict what your children can do on their screens and for how long. 3. Have a policy of transparency. Build a culture where you and your child can look at each other’s screens and talk about what’s happening. 4. Have screen time together—play a game, watch a movie, listen to music, or post a status update together. This provides opportunities for teachable moments about screen time. 5. Have regular conversations with your kids using the suggestions in the “Talk to your kids” sections of this booklet. Discussing screens shouldn’t just be about scolding them over things that have already happened.

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Moving forward What’s the final outcome we desire? Children who honour God online and offline with their time and focus; who hold on to a godly worldview in a world of secular media; who have mastered their screens without being mastered by them. Remember, screens are merely a platform. How our children use them will determine their negative or positive effect. So, why not go one step further: instead of just minimising the dangers of screen time, how about maximising its godly value? Let’s show our kids how they can gain godly wisdom through their screens, such as by watching videos on the Bible, listening to audio sermons, or learning to play Christian music online. Let’s encourage our kids to post status updates that share Bible verses, links to Christian articles, or personal testimonies. Let’s remind them to use instant chat messages to reach out to friends with an encouraging word from Scripture. In this way, our children can shine for Christ online. Consider the words of Moses: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 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. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.

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HELP! MY CHILD WANTS MORE SCREEN TIME


Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:5–9)

Are our kids hankering for more screen time? This is not a burdensome challenge. Rather, it’s a wonderful opportunity to start conversations with them about honouring God. Let’s engage them regularly, at home and outside, in the morning and in the evening. If we are able to guide our children with biblical wisdom, they will, with God’s help, be able to avoid the dangers of screens while glorifying God online.

Practical Tips

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Visit w w w.biblical-parenting.org for • Biblical wisdom on parenting, based on God’s Word • Practical tips & advice from experts and parents • Inspiring stories from parents who’ve walked the same journey • Daily prayer to help you pray for your family • Resources for the whole family


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Help! My Kids Want More Screen Time