Parents are busier than ever. In today’s crush of responsibilities and activities, it can be really tempting to allow electronics to “babysit” our kids.
Is it harmless – socially, emotionally and spiritually – for children to spend time on electronic devices?
As it turns out, all that touching and clicking on bright screens is powerful brain candy. It has an addictive quality.
Letting your baby have access to an ipad or allowing your teen to stay up at night on their cell phone has an adverse effect.
The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain right behind your forehead. It enables us to self-regulate, practice empathy, and develop emotional intelligence.
It’s critical for our ability to understand other people.
Studies show that teens who rely on electronic devices to connect with others do not experience proper development of their prefrontal cortex.
As a result, they cannot interpret the expressions on another person’s face. MIT technology and society expert Sherry Turkle discusses this in her book Alone Together.
Very young children are at even greater risk for adverse effects from time spent on electronic devices. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended the following guidelines for screen time:
- 0-2 years old – Zero screen time
- 3-5 years old – 1 hour a day
- 6-12 years old – 90 minutes per day
- 13-19 years old – 2 hours a day
(These guidelines are currently being evaluated in favor of a more nuanced approach. My hunch is that our society is giving in to the inevitability of a technology-driven lifestyle.)
So what does all this have to do with our children’s relationship to God?
“Scientists are telling us they are seeing a diminished ability to reflect, meditate, or contemplate in those who over-engage in the digital world.” –Archibald Hart, PhD and Sylvia Hart Frejd, D. Min.
Here’s the scary reality: If your child gets hooked on screen time, he or she is at risk for a decreased ability to connect to God.
That’s because this connection comes through reflection, meditation and contemplation.
But there’s good news. We can fix this.
I’m pondering this subject while seated on a gravel beach on the Lochsa, staring into the emerald forest on the other shore, the sibilant river soothing my soul.
Being quiet out in creation helps me draw closer to my Creator. It calms the turmoil in my soul.
Practicing spiritual disciplines like solitude and silence in God’s presence can help heal the damage that’s been done to our brains.
I’ve always been a big believer in getting children out in creation. Now I have more reasons as to why this is so important.
Children need to go outside, not only for physical exercise, but to get in touch with the beautiful world their Creator has made. They need to see and experience God’s glory in this way.
They need to play make-believe to exercise their imaginations. They need to use their “boredom” to foster more creativity.
All of these activities help them imitate God and come to know him better.
As parents, we can get so concerned about perpetually entertaining our kids that they don’t learn to be imaginative and creative.
We get overly anxious about an early start on their education, yet miss the importance of play and exploration.
When my oldest son was a toddler, the bag boy at the grocery store noticed that Danny could speak well for his age.
“I can tell he watches Sesame Street,” he said. Smiling, I shook my head and explained that, actually, I simply talk with my son.
Your child can learn everything he or she needs to without electronic help. Let’s be careful not to allow overuse.
It’s risky business for all our souls – but especially for the souls of our kids.
Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/42925588@N00/4915501829″>Hanalei: a real Digital Native on the iPad</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>