Introducing "Mom Says/Dad Says," an exclusive Christian parental advice column by Gregory Slayton, former U.S. Ambassador to Bermuda and author of the best-selling book Be a Better Dad Today: Ten Tools Every Father Needs, and his wife, Marina Slayton, author of the new book Be The Best Mom You Can Be. The Slaytons have been featured on Fox and Friends, Focus on the Family Radio and numerous other media outlets. They donate 100% of their royalties from parenting books to fatherhood and family non-profits.
Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, Governors Jeb Bush and Sam Brownback and Pastors Tim Keller and Luis Palau, among others, have endorsed the Slaytons. In their exclusive series for The Christian Post, both Marina and Gregory will answer thoughtful Christian parents seeking to raise their children up in the goodness of the Gospel and the Glory of God. If you would like to have Marina and Gregory answer your questions, please contact them via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parent's Question: My spouse and I are really concerned that our son is always on some form of electronics: videos, computer games and even his homework is on the iPad. What can we do to limit his time in front of a screen so he can live a normal life? We are at our wits end because he balks at the time restrictions we give him. We both work although my wife works part time from home so she can be here when he gets off the school bus. Any suggestions would be very appreciated.
Mom says: Welcome to the 21st century! When I had our first child in 1990 I thought television would be my nemesis but my kids don't watch much TV at all (very few of their peers watch TV – today it's all about gaming or Social Media).
My first suggestion for parents on this – as with so many other things – is simple: start early. If you begin when your kids are young with common sense rules for computer and TV use, it will be much easier to continue that when it comes to iPhones. Changing family patterns when the kids are already teens is possible, but it is much more difficult.
Admittedly it is very hard to monitor our kids PC or smartphone use. How do parents keep our family from drowning in electronic time? Here are some of my suggestions:
1. Create a home with lots of activities besides the electronics and invite neighborhood kids to join when possible. Growing up, my neighborhood was my playground. My brother and I would simply run out and start kick ball games, create theatre productions of the simplest sort, and generally keep ourselves occupied with the kids on our block. These days, many moms are working and kids are in daycare, not at home, so playdates are complicated to arrange. But if you make your home the center of activity, other kids will come. Our garage has ping pong and basketball set up for snowy days, and downstairs I have all sorts of games as well as air hockey and billiards set up. You may feel a bit like an activities director (and you may have to get your work done after you son has gone to bed) but these days a home that provides a creative and safe environment is a treasure.
2. Do not use electronic media as a babysitter. Since my health became very frail three years ago I can relate to the temptation of using electronics as a babysitter and center of entertainment. When I am sick or tired It takes real discipline for me (more than my son) to get him off the electronics. So on days I am feeling unwell, I make sure he either has a friend over or he has a book that he is reading. Of course, our youngest has tennis lessons and sax and all the rest, but it is important for him to learn to use his time creatively since this feeds his spirit.
3. Finally we must always remember that more is caught than taught. Don't do email on your Iphone at dinner or be texting people when you have a chance to talk with your daughter. If your kids see you spending too much precious time on electronic media, they will do the same.
Dad Says: It is very important to have firm rules for e-media use for ourselves and our children. If we as parents are addicted to e-media (and let's be honest, that is very, very easy these days) it is almost a certainty that our children will be also). So the first rule is to look at our own lives and be sure that we are not controlled by e-media (like money, electronic media is an excellent servant but a terrible master).
Our household rules on e-media include the following:
- a limit on the amount of e-media use for each child every day (this summer we are letting our 14-year-old play e-games for 2 hours a day – assuming he is not ill)
- a complete ban on e-media use during family meals or family devotions (which we usually do on Sundays) or other important family times together
- a ban on gambling or sex sites or other illicit sites. The need for this is clear but it must be reinforced constantly as some of our children's peer are guaranteed to be doing this
Being diligent with our children and their use of e-media is as important today as keeping them away from wolves was 200 years ago. It take time and diligence...but it pays off in the long run.