Devices are Destroying the Family and Stealing Childhood

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I’ve written quite a few posts on electronics. The first one I wrote I thought would be my last. My passion for encouraging families to guard their children and protect their time has only intensified.

If you are a parent who feels like electronic devices have taken over and kidnapped your family, you are not alone. I met a women recently who made mention to how much my boys play outside. She assumed they were younger than they actually are. I get it. You almost never see pre-teens outside anymore. How sad! Her comment to me was, “I wish my boys would play outside, but all they do is sit on those stupid video games.”

Here’s what I wanted to say but feared opening my mouth since we literally were meeting for the first time, “You are the parent, and they are the children. The parent sets the boundaries, rules, and limits. Not the kids. If you don’t want them playing video games after school, set a limit for weekends only.”

There is a part two to this statement. Josh McDowell is notorious for saying, “Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.” Herein lies the real issue. If your child spends hours on a device of any kind, his relationship with you suffers. It steals time that is yours. Quality time is critical to building relationship, so if that suffers, and you place your rules around something that’s become an addiction, that is when the fight back begins.

The majority of the parents that I talk to about the video game addiction are frustrated with it, yet they feel powerless to the drug. And drug is what it is. I don’t want to waste writing space on the science, but do spend some time researching the effects on the brain, the pleasure center in particular, when your child is playing video games or feasting on social media.

Would we ever offer our kids cocaine? A cigarette? How about heroine? Never. But at the youngest of age, we place a drug in their hand to appease them. To make them happy. To entertain them. To make our lives easier. Babies in shopping carts playing games on an iPhone. Lost to the real world before they’ve ever had a chance to discover and experience. Taught to get their demands for constant entertainment at the first peep they make. Taught they don’t need to learn self-control because we will just occupy you so you don’t need any self-control.

Kids at a ballgame watching their brother or sister play, sitting with a circle of kids playing video games. Heartbreaking. They can’t handle boredom. They don’t care to cheer on their sibling. They want to be entertained. The parents don’t want to listen to the whining, so they give in. The kids are happy and quiet. After all, they are learning games.

A generation of kids at stake to be the most selfish, self-centered generation we’ve ever seen. And we will be to blame. Because we fed this diet to them. We are creating the monster.

Kids are losing their wonder for the world. Their attentions can’t be held for long anymore. It takes more and more to excite and entice them. Like the effects of pornography. A child in the real world has a hard time looking around and finding wonder. Instead, they complain it’s dumb, it’s boring. Then they begin to tell you about their Minecraft world they created.

Video games and electronic devices are the most innocent looking destroyer set on our families. It’s not just about our kids. It’s about us too.

What grabs my attention first thing in the morning? Do I turn to my husband and give him my eyes or do I reach for the phone to see what I missed while I was sleeping? Do I go to my kids to spend the first few minutes with them or do I try to sneak in a few quick articles or see what everyone is doing?

When we go to bed at night are we connecting as a family? Or are we all in our own private worlds connecting to imaginary worlds or people we rarely see face to face?

And at the end of it all. At the very end of my life, will I be satisfied with how I trained my kids or how I spent my days?

I’ve said almost everything in the posts listed below. Each looks at a different aspect. Some speak to the parents, some to the kids. Here’s the deal- whether we like it or not, this electronic addiction is destroying families. When our kids are little, we don’t see the trap we are setting. It’s destroying creativity, free thinking, critical thinking, time, relationships, empathy. And the list goes on.

I will never look back and wish my kids had played more video games. I know that for certain. But if I allow the addiction to set in, I will regret the time the devices stole from us that we will never get back and the parts of their person that changed because of what held their hearts.

A Letter To My Boys (The Real Reason I Say No To Electronics)

A Letter To Me (and all moms) What We Need To Remember When We Open The Screens

A Letter To Husbands From Your Wife (Why You Need To Put The Screen Down)

5 Benefits Of An Electronics Fast

Exploring Limiting Electronics With Kids

Why Shutting Off Electronics Is Good For Kids

How To Rob A Childhood And Miss The Sacred Of Parenting

Dear Kids, A Little Secret About What Electronics Is Stealing From You

Mom, You Are Always On Your Phone!

Dear Kids, The Real Rules You Need For Owning Devices

When Moms Unite Over Electronic Devices

 

When Moms Unite Over Electronic Devices

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“Hey, can I talk to you about something?”

“Sure,” I answered my friend. Our boys have been friends for years. We walked to the parking lot together to leave the earshot of others.

“Here, let’s sit inside the car where it’s warm.” We jumped in the front seat of my minivan as I became keenly aware of the crumbs on the seat she now occupied, the greens powder stained smoothy cup, and the strips of paper and debris left behind from the boys. I really should clean this van more often. 

My friend began to tell me about a recent sleepover experience our boys had. I let go of the pesty thoughts of my dirty car. Her son went to the sleepover with an iPhone. None of the other boys had devices. When she talked to one of our other friends, she realized that her son having that phone had become a distraction to the boys that night.

“I realized that it wasn’t fair to the mom hosting the sleepover that she had the added responsibility to then monitor what was happening on my son’s device that could impact the other boys. And our son knows his limits, but what if my son’s device ended up being used in a way that exposed other boys to something harmful or dangerous?”

She went on to tell me how she and her husband discussed the issue at length and came up with an idea. Our boys are at this interesting age where they don’t need phones at all. However, many middle schoolers have them anyway. So then there is this issue of who has one and who doesn’t. Who feels cool and who doesn’t.

We’ve discussed with our boys that we will never make decisions to do something so that they fit in. That would be us modeling peer pressure decision making. Giving our kids something to be like everyone else rather than giving the why’s behind our decision and praying for hearts in agreement.

My friend said, “What if we parents determined our boundaries together so that there is always a common agreement on the electronic issue and no fears about what will go on at each house.”

I felt speechless momentarily. The fact that no one approached my friend to oppose her in any way. No one came to her and expressed upset over her son bringing a device. She, on her own, felt genuinely sorry about how the device impacted or could impact that time the boys have to simply be boys and wanted to be proactive about it.

I kept thinking to myself, “What a picture of humility.” Many parents wouldn’t be so willing to step forth when not approached to admit they felt they’d done anything wrong. Then to take it a step further and say, “Let’s fix this going forward, too.”

She said, “I don’t want any of our boys to feel like they don’t want to go to one house because they have limits that other houses don’t have.”

Again, speechless. This has been something I’ve prayed about for a long time. Steve and I are 100% ok with the boundaries we have in our home with devices. And we’ve never had a boy come here that complained about our rules either. In fact, they get so busy playing ping pong or foosball or riding bikes, shooting baskets, or whatever that they don’t seem to miss it at all. But there is still this little fear that my boys’ friends would prefer to go to someone else’s house where devices have no limits.

She continued, “I think we should let all the boys know that if they bring phones or devices, they are given to the hosting parent when they arrive. That way they are free to be boys. If they need to call or text their mom, they can come get their device. But other than that, the hosting parent will keep them safe.”

This eliminates the need to interrogate the parent each time we send our kids to each other’s houses. We have all come to the same agreements with regards to uses and protections.

My friend talked to several of our other friends. Not one person pushed back. Every single mom expressed gratitude and felt a sense of relief.

It took away that awkward conversation we have to have each time we send our kids away. I’ve discovered that simply telling my boys to remember our rules apply away just like at home isn’t enough. Without establishing our boundaries with other parents, we are putting our kids at risk. Many families allow their children full internet access. We do not. The times I’ve failed to have this discussion with the parents, I’ve regretted it.

My friend approaching me about this issue, establishing these boundaries and rules to protect all of our boys, left a deep impression on me. I was struck by her ability to look beyond her own kids to the other children. She took ownership without being challenged. How rare today to see this modeled. And what a relief now at least for this group of boys to know that we are all on the same page and have the same house rules. They are free to just be boys for this brief window of time. Far too soon, they will be in high school and beyond where the boundaries will shift again.

And for the boys….it seemed to relieve them of pressure we didn’t even realize they carried. Free of the device, free of the stress it brings in disguise.

 

 

 

Dear Kids, The “real” rules you need for owning a device

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Before I share today’s post, I need to preface it. The most read post on this blog hands down times 1000 is A Letter to My Sons, The Real Reason I Say No to Electronics. Having been read millions of times, this post showed me something. That our family is not alone! We are actually surrounded by thousands and thousands of families just like us. Families who value time and true, authentic relationship. Who want to make the most of the fleeting moments we have and realize how this digital age has the power to suck the moments away before we know what’s happened.

That being said, we’ve always known that there would come a time when our boys would begin to interact more in the electronic world and we would face new challenges. Our middle son saved his money for a year in order to purchase his own iPod touch. I’m grateful for all the years leading up to this point of laying the foundation.

Zachary asked us to give him rules and boundaries. The thing he has learned about himself is how easily he is sucked into the grips of a device. Of course we planned to give very firm and clear boundaries, but I found it interesting he recognized his need.

Before giving him the new family rules, I wrote him this letter because really, rules are pointless if he misses this point.

 

Dear Zachary,

You asked me to give you boundaries, rules, and guidelines for using your new iPod touch. Before you asked me that, I planned to give you clear boundaries, but the fact that you recognize your need for them shows me you are mature enough to begin to enter a world I would keep you from forever if I could. But I can’t because this is the world we live in.

Before I give you the rules for using your device, I want you to understand something else. You can have rules, you can be dedicated to keeping the rules, you can try harder to keep the rules than you’ve ever tried in your life, but without self control and discipline, you will fail miserably at keeping the rules.

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12

Rules without self control are nothing more than bait to failure. The rules will mock you and pressure you. They will torment you and tempt you to give in. The rules will wear a mask of protection, but they will whisper to you that a little longer isn’t a big deal. Or looking at this is no big deal. Or playing one more round just this one time won’t hurt anything.

In our own strength, we are powerless. We are weak. If we convince ourselves that we are strong enough to face temptation on our own, we are fools.

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

The first “rule” I want to give you is this. Admit you are weak. Admit that you are not strong enough to hold a temptation in your hands that has a power you underestimate. When you admit you are weak, submit to God’s leading, ask for His strength. Understand that this device and this connected world has the power to enslave you. You will need wisdom, strength, and self-control. These come from God alone, they do not come from within you.

The real “rules” you need to own a device:

  1. Recognize your human weakness to face temptation apart from God. It’s easy to look around at the world and see everyone owns a device and think, “What’s the big deal.” That is what the enemy wants you to think. What you hold in your hand can be used for good or evil. Understand its power and seek God’s strength. You will be faced with temptation repeatedly.
  2. Know yourself. Know your personal weak spots and temptations. Pray for God to guard you from temptation. To give you the strength to face temptation and flee.
  3. Guard your eyes. What you allow in with your eyes finds a path to your heart. Protect your heart. Guard it closely. Allow nothing in that would seek to separate you from God or bind you with shame.
  4. Understand that “life” through a device is not life at all. It’s not true life. Texting and interacting with friends online may be fun, but life was designed to be fully lived together with each other. Don’t replace real relationship with a counterfeit offering.
  5. It’s all about self control. And you can’t create your own self control. Try it for any amount of time, and you will quickly realize just how powerless you truly are. Self control must be practiced. Ask God to give you extra doses of self control. Practice it in all areas of your life. When you practice self control in all areas, it just gets easier.

Zachary, it’s really all about denying yourself. You see when you have that device in your hand, you will gratify your own desires. Repeatedly. The more you gratify your own desires, the harder it is to follow Jesus. This is why self control is the most important “rule” I can give to you.

It’s more than a device. It’s more than electronics. It goes to a deeper spiritual level than you yet know. So know this, ask God for self control. Ask Him to help you turn from your own desires and selfish ways so you can follow Him.

Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.

I know you asked for rules. And those are coming, but before we focus on the rules, I want to give you something of greater value. Something with true power. Something that will give you what you need to keep the rules with joy.

5 verses to pray for self control to navigate the electronic world you are entering.

  1. Proverbs 25:28 A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.
  2. 2 Timothy 1:7 For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
  3. Titus 1:8 Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.
  4. Titus 2:12 Training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,
  5. 1 Peter 4:7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.

I love you, and I know that with God guiding you, you will navigate this new territory with wisdom and strength. Remember, it goes deeper than what you realize. I’m cheering you on as God grows you in new areas to learn to trust Him and rely on Him to strengthen your faith.

To follow Jesus in big ways, He sometimes starts us in small areas. Follow Him each time you pick up that device. Guard your eyes and your heart, pray for self control and strength. Choose wisdom over foolishness.

With all my love,

Mom

Zachary chose to have a verse inscribed on his iPod. “I can do all things through Christ.” I don’t believe in coincidence. God knows this is the reminder he will need each time he picks up that device. With Christ we have the power to do anything.

 

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Mom, you are always on your phone!

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Steve and I stumbled across videos from when Jacob and Zachary were about 1 and 3. We both sat mesmerized by the videos not believing how quickly the time has gone by and fully aware it will not slow down.

Afterwards we found ourselves struck by the same observation. He and I were 100% in the moments we watched on tape. We both seemed so relaxed, wearing contentment on our face.

Something was different about us in those videos.

We were distraction free. Completely.

We didn’t own smartphones. We had no devices. When we were together, we were all in, and the outside world wasn’t invited to crash the party.

We took video for our private viewing, not for the world to like.

No dings, alerts, or alarms chimed barging in on our time.

Whatever crisis took place in the world, we found out about hours after the kids went to bed. No worry and doom lingered over us forcing us to plaster smiles on our faces while our thoughts were miles from the moments.

All the moments were all in moments.

When we were with the kids, we were with the kids. I wish I could say the same is true today.

I continued thinking of those tapes long after they were stored away again.

I’m so glad smartphones weren’t around when my kids were babies.

What might I have missed along the way?

Maybe I would’ve missed:

the way his little hands clapped hard at the bubbles in uncoordinated attempts.

the moment he held the lady bug and tried hard to find her smile.

the time he accidentally kicked that boy’s shin and how he reached down and patted his back until he knew he was ok.

the first time I saw him hold a door for a little lady.

the time he swept the garage and I noticed the proud smile he wore unaware.

the time he, shy and scared, joined the group and the fleeting moment when his face showed the relief of acceptance

I have the opportunity to record millions of small moments that create one amazing journey of life. I have an opportunity to be both an observer and participant in the trivial moments of their days.

Sometimes the trivial moments of the day become the ones they remember most.

I can watch the life in front of me, or I can watch life partially through a screen. I can catch glimpses and not realize how much I’m actually missing. Only when I put down my phone completely am I fully aware of all I’ve missed with eyes darting up and down.

I’ve told myself I don’t have a problem with distraction because I’ve justified my need for screens. My excuses range from ‘I don’t have a home phone, so I need to have it with me at all times in case of emergency.’ Or ‘I don’t want to miss a photo, so I need it close by in case they do something worthy of a capture.’ Or ‘someone will be contacting me and I can’t miss it.’ Or…..the list goes on and on.

In all honesty, I do have many valid reasons I’m on my phone not simply distracted. Life is pretty much completely online now. My work is on the computer, my bills are paid on the computer, I communicate with people on the computer. It is necessary for me to be on a screen at times. The problem is that it never seems to stop. And it creeps in and takes over without us even realizing it.

I find myself out loud telling the kids what I’m doing on my phone. I want them to know I’m not checking out on them but that I’m doing things that must be done.

The other night I followed Andrew up the steps to tuck him in and read stories. As always the phone came along. Because….Steve might need to reach me….or an out of state family member might need something….or a classmate might need to reach one of the boys….or….

And because phones simply never respect my desire to spend time with my children, my phone alerted me to two texts while we headed up the stairs. Andrew was mid-story, I checked my messages, and out of instinct I began to type responses. Andrew stopped talking for a minute then said, “You are always on your phone!”

I halted, dropped the phone, then my flesh became defensive. (Not sure about you, but when I become ultra defensive, it’s because a nerve has been struck, and I know there is likely truth behind the words.)

I began defending myself and explaining all the important reasons why I have this phone attached to my fingers all the time. Then I stopped. I put the phone hidden away in my bedroom, and I continued about our evening.

Andrew’s comment haunted me. How many years have I been blogging about making the most of the moments we have been given? How many posts have I written about the intrusion of electronics on family life? How passionate have I been about protecting our family in a screen driven world? And how little by little I’ve allowed it to creep in. Quietly and slowly.

My kids don’t compare my electronic consumption to the rest of the world’s. All they know is they want my time. They want to know I’m actually listening to their stories. They want to know I actually saw with my own eyes their accomplishment. They don’t care if I missed a photo. We have 100 others we’ve captured this week to make up for it I’m sure.

The world shouldn’t revolve around my kids. And they don’t need to think that they come before everything in life. But when they are away from me 7 hours a day, I need to capitalize on the times I have with them. I care about what they will remember about how I spent my time with them.

When my kids draw a picture of mommy, I don’t want to see a phone in my hand.

While I’m so grateful for the moments I had in their baby years that my phone didn’t steal from me, I can’t put my guard down now. I didn’t want to miss the baby years, and I sure don’t want to miss the preteen and teen years either.

When my boys were small, many wiser women told me to learn to step over the mess so I wouldn’t miss the moments with my babies. Times have changed. Now we battle less learning to step over the laundry piles, and we battle instead the need to put down the phone instead. Lots exists on my phone that is as important as the laundry and dishes, but if I thought it was important to leave some housework undone, then I need to apply the same logic in the digital age.

It all seems urgent and pressing. But sometimes we actually get more done when we put it down, are all in with our families when we are with them, and pick up the phone when we are apart.

It’s time I take a personal offensive position against the invasion of screens in our family life. Even the necessary uses of them. And that doesn’t mean throwing them out the window.

I’m taking the advice I gave my kids. If we want to protect ourself from temptation, I need to decide ahead of time what I will do. We must set our boundary lines before we find ourselves having to fight for self-control.

Social media, phones, news feeds, the latest coolest gadgets, they are all here to stay. But my kids aren’t. And there is nothing my phone can feed me that will take away the regrets of missing some of the sweetest moments of my life.

Yet it is more than missing the moments. If I allow electronic distractions into my life on a daily basis, I miss the call God has placed on my life in this season. What has He called me to that I’m missing because I’m on my phone? Even on my phone for good things.

I’m called to love Him above anything else. Above staying current on the news or up to date on the lives of everyone I know.

I’m called to be a wife. I’m called to be a mother. I’m called to raise my children to love and fear the Lord. I’m called to ministry in so many different venues – we all are.

Without self control, I will miss fulfilling my callings to the best of my abilities. My phone is just one small area I need to practice self-control. But it’s a good place to start.

Last night I pulled the covers snug up to Andrew’s chin. I looked in his eyes and realized he is still young enough that he looks at me with complete adoration. He pulled his arms out of his covers, squeezed my cheeks, kissed all over my face, then pushed my face away so he could look in my eyes.

In that moment, I remembered all over again that there will come a day where he will not look at me like that or kiss all over me like that or give me butterfly kisses with his eyelashes. He will be too old, too big, too mature.

It is worth it to put my phone away so I can be all in when I’m in.

No more excuses, no more justifications, and no more comparisons. Today I choose to be with my people when I’m with them. For me that means that my phone isn’t invited into these times. My people are more important than my feed.

I’ve written many posts on electronics and the family. On the sidebar of my blog, click the electronics category to find them.

The most popular is a letter to my boys on why we limit electronics and has been viewed over 3 million times. You may also enjoy:

 

Dear Kids- A Little Secret About What Electronics Is Stealing From You

How To Rob A Childhood And Miss The Sacred Of Parenting

Why Shutting Off Electronics Is Good For Kids

Exploring Limiting Electronics With Kids

5 Benefits Of An Electronics Fast

If you enjoyed today’s post, consider subscribing here to receive posts via email. Blog subscribers will receive a free Christmas ornament download that accompanies Seeking Christmas – Finding the True Meaning Through Family Traditions.

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Kids – A Little Secret About What Electronics Is Stealing From You

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Today’s post comes at the request of readers – for your kids, my kids, your grandkids. This is an open letter to kids of ages approximately 9-14 growing up in a digital age.

Dear Kids,

I have a little secret I want to share with you. Electronics are stealing something away from you, and you have no idea.

In this entire world, there is not a single person like you. Think on that. You are unique, you have something to offer this world, you have discoveries to make and ideas to form. Your life will tell a story one day. In fact, every day is like writing a page in the story book of your life. Have you ever thought of your life as a story?

You know what makes a story interesting? A collection of unique, different stories that when put together make a story you can’t put down. A boring story is one that tells the same story from page to page.

Think of your day today and all the little moments you experienced. That really funny joke that made you laugh until your sides hurt. Or that unexpected thing someone said that made you spit milk through your nose doubled over in a deep belly laugh. Then discovering that laughing is contagious when your friends start laughing with you. The moment your brother or sister said something that aggravated you and how in the span of 2 minutes you could go from angry to laughing. That embarrassing moment during recess that you wish you could erase but you know that one day it will tell a very funny story.

Your life is a collection of moments. Moments become memories. Memories are a gift and a treasure. 

You are a moment collector, memory creator, and a master storyteller.

Memories make us smile, cry, and laugh. Memories comfort us when we are sad and make us smile when we want to cry. Memories can teach us lessons, and they remind us that we are special, that we are loved, that we are known. Our memories tell a story unlike anyone else’s story. It’s yours and yours alone. How cool is that?

Now let me ask you a question to think about. When you think of memories, do visions of video games play in your head? When you think of moments that you want to remember forever, are you thinking back to when you defeated that last level?

You know what electronics, devices, screens, and video games are stealing from you? Time.

When electronic devices steal your time, they steal your moments that could’ve been. When it takes your moments, it takes your memories that never had a chance to form. When it takes your memories, it takes your story and makes it boring because it all looks the same.

If your story is one big video game, it will be a pretty boring story to tell one day. And you aren’t boring. You are unique and one-of-a-kind.

Kids, you were created by God- for a purpose. You were made for more than conquering boards and clashing clans. You were created for a unique purpose and no one can tell the story of your life like you can.

Now, that doesn’t mean you should NEVER be on a screen. That is silly given the world we live in. It doesn’t mean if you like video games, you will be boring. My boys love video games, and they are the most interesting kids I know, but I’m biased. So let’s explore this a little more because I’m not saying you should never be on a device.

What I want you to hear is that devices secretly control us, but they make us think we control them. And when they control us, they steal our time and make us miss out on making our story interesting.

It’s the reason you find yourself talking about it non-stop with your friends, or rushing through homework so you can go play a video game, or not really wanting to talk to your mom about your day because you have wars to fight in a make-believe world. We think we control electronics, but they can easily control us.

Life happens only once. Childhood is experienced only one time by each person. It’s not a video game where we get a ‘2nd life’ to play the board of childhood again.

Have you ever noticed that when you play a video game, 30 minutes actually feels like 5? That is how fast childhood goes as well. 18 years will feel like 5.

When your eyes are on a screen, you will never see what you are missing. You will never know what could’ve been if you had just looked up. And that is why I urgently want you to understand this.

You don’t know what you are missing because you are having so much fun playing on a device. You are entertained, so you don’t feel you are missing out on anything. You are having fun. But life is more than being entertained. Life is for living, creating, playing, and feeling. Nothing you experience on a screen can come close to what God has for you in the real life world He’s placed you in. Don’t accept 2nd, 3rd or last best for your life. Accept your best life now, which is the very place God has placed you.

The thing is…when you are a child, you can’t see this. It’s only when you look back that you can fully understand the treasure of childhood. Trust me, put down the devices and go be a kid. You will never regret putting down a device, but you could regret spending some of the best years of your life in make-believe worlds.

I have a few more things to share with you to encourage you to put the screen down and go enjoy this life. I will be writing you another letter or two on this subject looking at different perspectives. I hope you will keep reading.

In the meantime, I have a little challenge for you if you are up for it? Are you?

This week’s challenge is to make one small change in your electronic life. That will look different for everyone (remember we are each unique and have a different story, so yours will look different than your best friend’s). Maybe if you play your device everyday, you choose 3 days to play. Maybe if you always take it in the car, you start leaving it at home. Maybe if you always discuss it with your friend, you choose something different to talk about. Maybe if your parents let you play as long as you want, you set a timer for 30 minutes instead. There are many small changes you can make. Choose one for a week and write a list of how your moments looked different when you took your time back from the devices.

Love,

Renee

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You may also enjoy:

A Letter To My Boys : The Real Reason I Say No To Electronics

How To Rob A Childhood And Miss The Sacred Of Parenting

Why Shutting Off Electronics Is Good For Kids

Exploring Limiting Electronics With Kids

5 Benefits Of An Electronics Fast

If you enjoyed today’s post, consider subscribing here to receive posts via email. Blog subscribers  will receive a free Christmas ornament download that accompanies Seeking Christmas – Finding the True Meaning Through Family Traditions.[/box]

 

How To Rob a Childhood And Miss The Sacred of Parenting

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It’s been about 14 months since I wrote my boys a letter about why we limit electronics in our home. If you haven’t read it, please do so you can understand my heart before reading this post. At the time I wrote that letter because they felt different and continued asking why I wouldn’t allow them to carry a device with us everywhere we go. Much has changed in their hearts in 14 months. Much has changed in my heart. We all feel stronger in our resolve to limit the grip of electronics in our home.

I wrote that letter from my perspective, a mom not wanting to miss a moment of a fleeting childhood. A mom desiring to invest in the moments and watch real life bloom in their hearts and lives.

I received enormous amounts of mail from parents who felt just as I did but felt powerless to the electronics grip on their children. Parents who allowed their kids to play because they didn’t want their kids to feel different or alienated from their friends.

I have some new thoughts to share. My eyes have been opened to the threats this young generation is facing that we have been blinded to. I’m calling out to all parents who are with me in this season of life to rise up. To stand up and make a bold change. I’m asking you to take a stand that will save your child’s childhood from being robbed by a make-believe world. I’m asking you to protect the sacred moments of your parenting years. The window of time is barely a crack that we have them to influence and lavish with love.

My tone has changed in 14 months because God has awakened something in me. He has shown me where the enemy is blinding parents, allowing parents to justify their choices in allowing electronics to invade the home and family. “It’s all innocent fun.” “They need to fit in.” “I need a break.” I get it. I’m right here with you on every single point.

We were never called to fit in. We were never called to train our children to fall into peer pressure. We were never called to model to our children fitting in and finding acceptance in the eyes of others. We were never called to make choices for our children to make their paths easier in friendships and relationships. We were never called to set our children up for a life of addiction (this sounds dramatic, but I assure you video games are highly addictive and allowing addiction as a child only increases the likelihood of other addictions in their future as they will continue seeking the feel-good pleasure experiences).

Pregnant with my first child, I promised God I would raise him to love God more than anything else. That is the first and greatest command, after all. Baby arrives, baby grows, innocence fades, and that battle becomes real – tangibly real. My job as a mom is to battle hard for my children. I’m battling the dark forces of this world that my children are unable to see.

It’s a battle, my friends. A real-life battle. As our children sit hooked to their iPads battling in a make-believe world, there is a true battle occurring for their hearts, their minds, their souls, their very lives.

While our children live out their free moments in clash of clans, halo, or whatever new game comes along to clutch them in its grips, their childhood is being robbed. And they have no idea. They have no clue what they are missing out on. We know what they are missing. It’s our job to protect our children. Childhood is a gift to experience only once. Then the worries and stresses of life become real to them and childhood is gone.

Electronics are robbing our children of one of the sweetest gifts they will ever experience. The carefree, innocent life of a child.

Here’s what has changed in my boys in 14 months. They see mostly the tops of heads of children when we are out in public. We traveled by plane to Florida last week. We couldn’t spot one single child traveling device free. Entire families sat with heads buried. For the first time, they expressed sadness over what the kids were missing out on rather than what they were missing out on.

Traveling with devices is convenient. Devices don’t argue, they don’t ask for things, they don’t intrude on our time, they don’t demand anything, they entertain, they pass time. But what if God wants more? What if He wants us to teach our children patience and self-control, to become creative in boredom, not giving into our desires? Devices give our children what they want, when they want it. Devices entertain our kids so we don’t have to deal with the messy stuff. If they all play their iPads, I don’t have to deal with mediating arguments. I don’t have to answer questions. I can read my own book and enjoy some peace. My children appear well-behaved (until you take away the device). I look like a good parent who can take children in public, instead of the parent correcting sassy mouths and breaking up fights in public (which is quite normal). What if that isn’t what God wants for those moments in my parenting? What if He has precious gifts for me that don’t look so pretty, and I miss them because we are all living so darn distracted?

Here’s where we are right now. My boys don’t want to be “different”, but they don’t want to live with buried faces either. Would they have expressed this 14 months ago? No way! I had parents write me that I would breed resentment in my boys’ hearts. Prayer can change a heart and its hunger. I’m not worried about that. I serve a God who desires to have children who love Him wholeheartedly. And that is what I’m praying.

I had parents write me that I was setting my kids up to be outcasts. There’s a Bible full of outcasts that God used in amazing ways. We are ok with outcasts. It’s all in how you present things to your kids. I don’t come down as a dictator telling them I will not allow such in our home. I share my heart and passion with them. I share with them the why’s behind our concerns so they understand and as they grow hopefully they will be equipped to make wise decisions. We explain that this isn’t because we are mean and don’t want them to have fun, but that we love them so much and want them to experience the abundant life God has for them. If they are living through a screen, they will miss out on the moments God has for them.

Battles weren’t designed to be easy. I don’t expect that because I’m passionate about this topic, that God will smooth that path for me and give me children who desire no part of the video game world. I expect quite the opposite. I expect that God will allow me to walk a rough road so that He can refine me and show Himself awesome before my very eyes.

We are at a new crossroads. One where my boys find it difficult in their friendships now. They miss the days where they could have real conversations with their friends. They miss talking about sports and games and gross things and silly things. One of my boys said, “I just want to have real conversations again with my friends, but all they talk about is video games.” Childhood robbed by video games.

It looks innocent, it’s not innocent.

God placed talents, gifts, passions, and desires in each of us. When our children live in a make-believe world, and only live for the next moment they can play, they may never discover gifts hiding in their hearts.

We are currently on a fast from electronics, which is why all of our eyes are opened to the enormity of this issue. We planted a garden. I watch 2 of my boys spending time learning, growing, caring, tending these plants. I watch them amazed at the miraculous growth and watch them make connections about growing what we cultivate. I want to cultivate a love for life, experiences, and deep relationships.

One son picked up long lost hobbies of coin collecting and baseball card collections. I’ve watched another son become interested in reading and writing. I’ve watched one son spend more time reading his Bible. I’ve watched one son thinking more critically. These are gifts I am experiencing because their heads are up this month.

I’ve had gifts of extended, heart-pouring-out conversations with 2 of my sons. If they were engrossed in games, we would all miss out. We would all be robbed.

Electronics are robbing our children of their childhood and they are robbing us parents of experiencing their childhood as well. The enemy wants us to brush this off. The enemy wants you to read this and say, “She’s crazy and way too dramatic.” He’s good like that. He’s good at making big deals not such a big deal.

For some kids, video games don’t grip them. Some kids can easily handle playing and still relating in life, talking about normal topics, looking adults in the eyes, playing carefree. Other kids simply can’t.

God has given parents the gift of seeking wisdom from Him. If there is the slightest nudge in your heart to explore further, please seek God’s wisdom and guidance. Ask for His discernment in making changes that will save our children’s childhoods.

The most common response I receive is from parents who despise how their kids are sucked into games and want to get rid of it. I always ask this, “Then why don’t you?” It’s in us to want to please our children, we fear they will hate us if we take away their games. If it is affecting family life, relationships, work ethic, motivation, physical exercise, attitude, then let it go. We are still the parents. While they are under our roof, we have a job to do. That job doesn’t include making them like us or making them happy all the time. In fact, it might look the opposite for a time. But giving the issue over to God will change everything. God will change the angry heart. God will change the heart’s hunger. If we ask Him to.

I still have so much I want to share. But I have to ask my son’s permission first before I share it. But I will say this, God laid on my heart this morning to pray radical prays for the hearts of children in this generation to thirst and hunger not for video games, but for real-life, real childhood. Would you join me? If you feel frustrated by what you see in your own kids or the kids in your life, would you pray God remove their desires to live game to game and instead hunger for a life that offers more than they could ever imagine?

You may also enjoy this post: Why Shutting Off Electronics Is Good For Kids

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Why Shutting Off Electronics Is Good For Kids

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I will not bore you with statistics and facts about what electronics are doing to our children. I will tell you the effect I see on my own children, which is the very reason we periodically shut it all down.

Last year I wrote a letter to my boys about why we say no to electronics more than it seems other families might. This post has gone viral multiple times and continues to circulate at numbers that astound me. I realized many of us feel the same way.

As parents we are exploring a new world where constant connection is creating a disconnect for the relationships and the life we were created for.

My heart is grieved when I see preschoolers and young children gathered together with headphones on buried in devices. When I see the new norm for playdates has become video games. When I see kids riding in cars oblivious to the passing world because they are living in a make-believe world.

The time we have with our kids rushes by us. The time they have to experience life carefree digging in dirt and chasing their friends flies by. We are caught in an age where it’s easier to give a kid a device. As parents we weren’t called to take the easy road.

We are not an electronic-free family or house. We own all types of devices. However, we do place limits and boundaries, which I will share.

Here’s what happens to my boys when television, iPads, and gaming devices begin to become more important than they should.

1. They have no motivation to do anything.

2. They become lazy.

3. They become complainers when asked to serve the family.

4. They become ungrateful and actually foster a sense of entitlement.

5. They don’t want to exercise or do any physical activity.

6. They argue constantly.

7. They become impatient, snapping back with an impatient tone of voice and are quick to get angry.

They say it takes 30 days to create new habits. Our family just went through 30 days of clean eating, and I’m a believer in giving anything 30 days now. We’ve done electronic fasts in the past, and I always wonder why we don’t do them more often.

Sunday I realized numbers 1-7 above described my children. The effects of electronics had silently slithered in. And I promise that if we had not taken fasts in the past, I would have NEVER made the connection of the above mentioned issues to electronics.

Within HOURS my kids were different kids. The simple words, “Starting right now we are taking a 30 day fast from tv and electronics.” That alone seems to change everything. It is literally like they release the stress and burden of devices. Sounds crazy I know, and for the readers who will disagree, I can understand how crazy this sounds. I have no research to back this up. I have first-hand knowledge how this works on my 3 children, though. Every single time.

The very day we gave up all electronics, here’s what happened.

1. My 6-year-old went through the house, collected materials, and made his very own baseball from scratch. It took a long time, but he worked hard and completed a project.

2.  My boys stopped fighting. I didn’t hear another argument all day long.

3. They hung out with us all day. We played outside, we lounged on the screen porch, we took naps. It was lovely.

4.  My 9-year-old picked up a book and simply read without being told to read. (never would that happen if electronics was an option)

Now days into this fast, they do argue, but not as much. They simply go outside and play again. They don’t ask when they can watch a movie because the option was removed. So they get creative.

One of my sons in particular has become very creative in the last few days. The one who rarely uses creativity. One of my other sons has opened up in conversation to me revealing something he never wanted to share. Now I know how to pray. None of this would have happened if we were living distracted.

When electronics are gone, my children begin to think again. They begin to think about life and their role in it. Since our fast started on Sunday, we have had numerous conversations with our children that revealed to us inner struggles they were dealing with. Because their minds weren’t focused on their entertainment, they were thinking about life again and trying to make sense of changes they are facing.

Even in our family that has limits on electronics, our children can live in snippets of moments instead of truly experiencing life. They can begin to live from one game to the next. One experience to the next. And the thinking in between is on their conquering of new worlds and mastering new levels rather than exploring their own heart and connecting to the real-life world they live in.

The most common email I receive in regards to electronics limits is how we do it in our family. Today, I want to share what it looks like in our home.

Here’s our guidelines:

1. No devices in cars unless it is a long road trip. The car ride is when I’ve had some of the deepest conversations with my kids. It’s when my husband has had opportunities to have discussions on “the talk”. 2 of my 3 children accepted Christ while we were in the car out running errands! In our busy world, the car time is golden. As my boys are getting older, I have to capitalize on each moment I have with them.

2. No weekday electronics during the school year. It’s just too busy anyway. There isn’t time. If they are allowed electronics during the week, they rush through homework, they rush through family dinners, they rush through conversation because they have one thing on their mind. Their pleasure. They begin to give less of themselves to what matters because they want to pursue mastering a game instead. Life is no game.

3. No iPod touch, iPhone usage without permission. Our boys have iPod touches, but they are only used on long car rides for the most part. They are stripped of all access to the internet, which is the only reason we allow them to remain in their rooms. If internet access were granted, we would never allow them to keep their iPods in their rooms. The statistics are staggering on children exposed to pornography at young ages. Kids given internet devices and allowed to access them freely is dangerous territory. Evil finds our kids when our kids aren’t looking.

4. Time limits on games and tv watching. – They set an old fashioned kitchen timer and are allowed to play 30 minute sessions twice a day on the weekends. They have freedom to choose when and what and are given the responsibility to set the timer. The timer has been a key for us as my children were shocked to discover how fast 30 minutes goes by. Without a timer, they would play for hours. It’s hard to pull out of a game you are engrossed in. But setting time limits is practicing self-control. When they are older, they won’t have timers, but hopefully they will have practiced the art of leaving fun and realizing it was for their good.

5. Summer they are allowed one 30 minute session a day, but not before lunch. The days I’ve allowed them to start the day with tv or games, they tend to move like slugs and have no motivation. The days we work hard then play, they learn the value of work before play.

Another common email I receive is from parents frustrated about how addicted their kids are to their devices and desperate for help and solutions. When our kids are under our roofs, they are our responsibility. We have an obligation to society to raise kids who think beyond themselves and pursuing their pleasures. We have a responsibility to raise kids who value work, who think of others before themselves.

When my older boys were little, the electronics issue wasn’t an issue. We went to the store without needing to entertain our kids. We are raising a generation that believes they must be entertained, and they must always be happy, they must always get their way. When our kids act up, we silence them with a gaming device because it saves our sanity and embarrassment.

Parenting is not convenient. Parenting is downright embarrassing. Parenting is frustrating and full of hair pulling and tears hiding out in the bathroom. Parenting is the total giving of ourselves for the benefit of another.

Trust me, I struggle through this all the time. Just this week I went to the grocery store and had a 20 minute battle with my 6-year-old who refused to get out of the car. When he did, he refused to walk beside me and ran to aisles far away. I had to pull him from the store in a full on battle of the wills where we readjusted attitudes and hearts in the car. My grocery store trip left me spinning. I was sweating, exhausted, sad, and mad. A trip that should have taken 20 minutes took an hour. Had I put a phone in his hand, we would have zipped through the aisles and all would have been well.

Here’s what I would have missed.

1. Seeing my need for Jesus to help me parent.

2. Relying on God to grant me patience and literally crying to God in the car to help me parent a child well who struggles to obey the smallest instructions.

3. Teaching a child that life is more than his pleasure.

4. Explaining to a child why God desires obedience.

5. Disciplining a child (a child left undisciplined will be a child who struggles to feel loved)

6. Modeling to a child obedience, respect, discipline, and following it all with showers of love and grace.

It took time. Time I didn’t have. Time I didn’t want to give. It was awful and I didn’t see the beautiful in that moment that was pure embarrassment.

Parenting is a life of opportunity. The electronic grip on our kids steals our moments. It steals what is rightfully ours. Time is all we have, and it goes by much too fast. We will never have these years and opportunities again. Once they are gone, they are gone.

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