As a therapist, one of the most common questions I get from parents is how much time their children should be on electronics. How much is too much? If you take your child to the doctor, you will see the recommendation that two hours a day is the maximum that your child should be on electronics. This goes down the younger the age of the child. For many parents, however, the convenience of placing a child in front of electronics is their principal motivation. It is a great way to take a break from the kids, right? Let them be entertained so we can have a break.
When I respond to this question as a therapist, I do not address whether the two-hour time limit is appropriate. Rather, I ask parents how their children react when asked to end the use of electronics. Most parents that I ask this are initially puzzled by my question, but upon further examination, they realize that their child’s misbehavior is tied to disengaging from electronic use that has already become excessive. As often with trying to eat just one potato chip or enjoy just one drink, the very difficulty in disengaging from electronics can prove that their consumption was already addictive and excessive.
When children or adults are on electronics for too long, we become disconnected from our bodies. So when a child cannot disengage from electronics, it is because they have gotten so plugged into the non-reality that they have lost touch with their own body.
We can take this analysis even deeper, into a spiritual analysis. What happens to our children spiritually when we give them unfettered or excessive access to electronics? Well, the same thing happens spiritually as mentally and physically. Being completely engaged in electronics disconnects us from God. Our children cannot possibly be thinking about God, engaged in prayer, or even be in control of their thoughts when there are absorbed in a digital non-reality.
So, from a spiritual perspective, how much is too much? On Christ the King Sunday, Fr. Yamid Blanco from St. Louis Parish in Caledonia asked the congregation, how are we preparing? He was asking us how we are preparing for Christ’s coming, and truly each moment in this life matters. Every moment is an opportunity to prepare for our Lord’s coming. I have never seen a video game that facilitates our connection with our Lord. So, when we allow our children to be on electronics, this is really lost time spent disconnected from reality and the Lord. I am not saying that electronics are inherently bad or always inappropriate, as time and context are important. But I am suggesting that we need to be watchful as parents about when and why we are allowing our children to use electronic devices.
So, if we ask the question again, “how much electronic time is too much?” we need to ask, “how we are preparing for Christ’s coming?” Is the time that we or our children are spending on electronics deepening our relationship with God? If we are using electronics to get the kids out of the way because they are being too loud or to entertain them, are we helping them prepare for Christ’s coming? If we are allowing our children to use electronics, how can we use the time that they are watching or playing videos as points of discussions and lessons for living a deeper faith?
Electronics are not intrinsically bad. But we should not allow their usage without due consideration. We should never casually allow our children to play video games for hours by themselves. At best, this is valuable time lost and hinders preparation for our Lord’s coming. If Christ came now, in this moment, where would he find our children? Where would he find us? Brothers and sisters, we must not be like the unprepared virgins in Matthew chapter 25. Be involved with the usage of electronics, and be honest about how you are allowing your children to use them.