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I drove through the neighborhood near our home in the middle of a warm summer day. I know the families who live in those homes. I have seen their children climb on buses during the academic year.

And yet, as I drove, I did not see one child. Not one kid ran or biked or jumped. Not one child drew with chalk on the driveway. No one yelled “Red rover, red rover,” or blew bubbles, or jumped rope, or climbed a tree, or lay in the grass looking for pictures in the clouds. Not one.

Culture has shifted

Today, children play inside. They play with remotes and stare at the game on their TV screens. They watch movies and sit-coms and sit on the couch. They spend hours on the computer zinging one-liners at friends. Their clothes are now made with pockets for devices that deliver endless hours of music to their developing ears. They stay inside where electricity reigns while the wonder of creation goes undiscovered and unseen. Do we have to live like this?

Summer brings challenges

In our family, we are in the midst of reducing our exposure to media, and it is a task we are struggling through. The open schedule of summer makes this work both easier and more difficult. When children are home during these warm months, the lure of screens is constant. With 24/7 programming, there is always something they can watch on TV. Computers draw them into social media, and gaming systems beckon to the conquering of the next amazing level. With school done and the day available, there is far more time to spend on all these things.

Delight in God's gifts

And yet, outside in the sunshine, there is so much to do! Bike rides to take, trails to explore, balls to throw, trees to climb, and thoughts to think. There are animals to observe, insects to inspect, and the wonder of creation--God-dreamed and perfect--to immerse ourselves in, discovering its intricacies. When our faces are pressed into our personal screens, we miss out on fellowship and all of the blessings of being in community.

Find the Balance

So shall we do away with screens altogether? Unplug ourselves and stay outside? Yet media itself is one of God's good gifts. We have the task of discovering how to use this gift well without making an idol out of the gift itself. Balance is a wonderful thing and teaching discernment is, as well. Here are some ideas we are trying that you might benefit from too.

  1.  Decide as a family how much screen time you would like per day. Ask yourself, does this include all screens? How much time gaming? Facebooking? Watching TV? Set a goal and encourage one another to stick to that amount each day.
  2.  Brainstorm ideas about what you could do besides using electronics. Make a list and post it in your home. Be sure to include time outdoors and remember that sometimes, if kids have nothing to do outside, they will dream up something that you would never imagine yourself!
  3.  Use the local library or used bookstore and provide plenty of reading material for your kids to explore. Let them read outdoors on blankets and up in a tree and sitting on bench and wherever they would like to enjoy a good book. 
  4.  Plan screen time together as a family. Use it as a tool to bring you together and not as a device that drives you apart. We do not need to avoid screens altogether; we need to learn to use them to meet our parenting goals. Plan a movie night. Organize a video game tournament. Wisely use the technology and time to connect with one another.
  5.  Remind yourself that our children seek planned activities because that is what they know. Let them discover the wonder of free play and watch as they remember how to dream and discover. 

The summer is an incredible time. Our schedules slow and we have time to share. It is time we need to protect and to use. Our children need time to explore creation and, in doing so, learn more about the Creator, too. What better way to use the days we have been given!

 

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