When Life Gets Sucked Out of Our Family

Sometimes technology feels out of control. I am chief offender in our home. Two hours can pass and, if I’m completely honest, I don’t really remember much of what I did, saw, or believed was so important.

I recently came to realize that I was spending hours with various screens (computer, e-reader, phone, etc), as were my kids, simply because I was… BORED! Not that there weren’t other things to do, but somehow my life and the life of my kids was being sucked out of us with nothing to show for it.

My wife and I were seeing greater levels of impatience as a family, an increase in selfishness and a tone of disrespect. I want to reiterate, this was a general household reality, not a child-only phenomenon! All of us were allowing our screen time to nudge just a little higher, a little higher — and our family life was suffering for it.

It was time for the dreaded Screen Time Talk.

At dinner I said, “I’ve noticed I’ve been spending a lot of my free time looking at a screen, watching basketball, surfing the web and reading news articles. I wonder how many hours a week we as a family spend per week on free-time screen watching? Any guesses?” The response was fairly unenthusiastic. Kind of like “I think I know where this is going” shrugs and grunts.

I asked, “How many hours do you think a family like ours would want to dedicate to screen time per week? 5? 15? 25?”

A little background: In years past we often took on “family challenges” that all of us would agree on. We put the TV away for periods of time (summers). We quit drinking sugary soda drinks together for a while. We made plans to give each family member a day of special treatment for a week. These challenges built family camaraderie and reminded us of the family that we were called to be.

We decided it was time for another family challenge — a technology detox!

We decided we will set good limits for one month and reevaluate after that. Non-school use for technology will happen on Friday nights and Saturdays for a maximum of two hours each day. When we do have screen-time, it will only be with someone else and not in isolation, since we value relationships. That leaves open a lot of free time! We decided to visit our elderly neighbor, play games, hang out with friends and do some family service work together at a nearby apartment building.

I am confident that this family challenge will be, well, challenging! It’s a detox of sorts. My wife and I have seen it before: a week’s worth of grumpiness, whining and aimless pacing — and that’s just from me! I’ll let you know how it goes — but if this family challenge is anything like the last several, once we get through the initial days of detox, we will experience a new level of depth, connection and purpose.This decision has allowed us to once again ask the questions, “What are we here for? Who can we help? How can we use our gifts to impact others?”

Apply It Now:

  • What changes does your family need to make in order to live out God’s purposes in your families life?
  • Have you allowed yourself and your kids to get saturated in technology, negatively impacting your relationships?
  • How could you engage your kids in this conversation?
  • Are you willing to lead the way as a model of self-control and balance?

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