Teachable Moments

Danger: Cumulative Screen Time for Little Ones

I tried to avoid it; I really did.  I didn’t like it and I didn’t want to deal with it.  Yet, I knew that if I didn’t deal with it now I’d regret it for years to come. So I faced it. I engaged. I chose to enter into conflict….with my preschooler.

I remember the years in which trying to set rules and boundaries with my little ones was more challenging than any other challenge I ever tackled.  I really didn’t look forward to saying things like, “Bedtime is in 5 minutes”, or “No, you may not eat that bag of cookies”, let alone – “Stop painting the dog white with the house paint!” and my favorite, “You will not spoon feed your little brother a bag of powdered sugar and spill it all over the carpet!

While I was wrestling over house paint and powdered sugar (which, by the way, is impossible to get out of carpet after children and a 100-pound Golden Retriever walked all over it), today’s parent wrangles over a less-messy yet more potent problem. Cumulative screen time for children in early childhood (children under the age of 5) has potential harmful effects which negatively affect a child’s development.

In a recent study of 2,441 children*, too much screen time before the age of 2 affects the results of developmental testing in these same children when they are 3-years-old. Consistent with these findings, 3-year-olds who have experienced excessive screen time show decreased developmental outcomes at the age of 5.  Bottom line, research shows that young children should not engage in more than 1 hour of cumulative screen time in a day. So practically, the cartoon before the play date, the iPad in the grocery store, and the computer game after dinner all add up to cumulative screen time. When you add all the screen time together, you don’t want to exceed 60 minutes (1 hour) a day.

How difficult is it for parents to abide by these wise guidelines?  Extremely. Often when children are engaging with a device it provides them an instant gratification, and as such they are likely to have a strong pull toward playing or watching it again and again. Like us, children can easily get hooked on screen time.

How do parents deal with the inevitable conflict that will result if they set and enforce limits on their child’s screen time?

  • Conflict should not be avoided and should be handled with gentleness and patience.  Limiting screen time will be disappointing for the child and may result in conflict, but it is also an opportunity to engage in discussion, spend time together, and teach the qualities of patience and delayed gratification. Help the child identify their disappointment and give them the emotional and verbal skills needed to express their feelings constructively to find alternative activities.
  • Children learn best through movement; they are kinesthetic learners as much as visual ones. Playing with hands-on games, puzzles, and blocks engages their brain in ways a screen never could.  Parents and caregivers alike can work toward understanding the stages of cognitive development of a child and what it takes to maximize a child’s potential for cognitive functions (critical thinking, decision making, creative solutions, etc.) by playing with their children and providing toys that require small and large motor movement.
  • Effective social learning, which takes place when eye contact is made in person, cannot be replaced with screen time.  Parents are encouraged not to “underestimate the value of face-to-face time” in which children learn how to empathize, express emotion, read facial and other nonverbal clues, and learn vocal as well as verbal communication.  Quality time is any time that parents and children are paying attention, listening, talking, and engaging with one another. Every day moments matter!
  • Setting boundaries on screen time is best done early in the child’s development.  A habit of non-screen time is a habit best started when the child is young and kept consistently as they grow.  Not only will the child’s potential for development be maximized, a child is never too young to start a life-long pattern of self-discipline in regard to technology use.
  • Encourage children to explore and be curious. Screen time often makes problem-solving and entertainment too easily accessible. Challenging children to work to overcome boredom or solve their problems engages the child in critical thinking, delayed gratification, and innovative creativity.

Dear Reader, I have a hunch that research will continue to show us the dangers of cumulative screen time. How can we help parents realize the dangers of setting their child in front of the screen too often? Consider passing on this blog post to the parents of preschoolers you know; join them in thinking through what and when screen time could be used in their home. At the same time, this is a great opportunity for each of us to take a serious look at how much time we spend in front of a screen. We can’t influence the Next Generation if we are not self-aware of how we ourselves are using screens. We can also thoughtfully consider how much face-to-face time we may be inadvertently giving up by picking up our screens without thinking through what we are giving up by picking them up. How precious is the time we get to spend in each other’s company without the distraction of a screen!

Many blessings as you seek to uses screen time wisely for you and your children.  

Fondly yours, Elizabeth

**The research study referred to in this article is taken from Madigan, Sheri, et. al. “Associates between Screen Time and Children’s Performance on a Developmental Screening Test.” JAMA Pediatrics. Published online 28 Jan 19. JAMA Network, URL: jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/article-abstract/2722666 **


Teachable Moments

Pursuing Peace in a Stressed-Out World

Comparing research reported by the Pew Research Center (Jan. 3, 2019), Our World in Data website and other credible sources, figuring out the trends of stress, conflict and violence in our world and the much sought-after peace everyone wants becomes confusing.  However, it seems form my observations that the following are commonly held as true:

  • World War 2 took more lives than any other war in history since 1400.
  • After the mid-1990s, Europe has experienced a period of astounding peace
  • Death as a result of battles is declining quickly, and has done so for the last few decades
  • Wars and conflicts overall are becoming less-deadly
  • Statistics need to be understood in light of what kind of conflict we’re describing; example, the Korean war (2 countries in conflict) vs the Rwandan Genocide (2 people-groups within one country) puts numbers in perspective
  • Conflict between individuals are increasing as conflict between people groups decrease

What does this say about our world?  Do these trends indicate that we live in more peaceful times and as such, peace is something we are achieving but don’t realize?  This is the sticky part. The answer is nebulous as we can say both “yes” and “no” to what we learn from data.

Yes, we are becoming more peaceful to some extent.  Between States, Countries, Continents, wars are down; even between people groups, we are finding fewer, if not less deadly in numbers percentage-wise, conflicts.

No, violence is not decreasing significantly if analyzed as what individuals do to individuals (domestic violence) or small groups do to small groups (gangs).  One recent medical research report showed that in 1000 cases analyzed, almost ⅓ of all abuse done to children was done BY children. Domestic violence as reported in 2018 was reported by more than 10 million USA women and men, but there seems to exist a lack of awareness or response in the religious community.  Narcissism is a serious mental illness which has reached epidemic numbers in western countries and 1 out of 3 Evangelical pastors show disturbing signs of this destructive disorder. According to a 2018 report found on Comparitech, a total number of reports for cyberbullying has increased worldwide

What does all this have to do with us?  I’d suggest, the peace that we seek starts with us from an individual perspective.  If we truly do want the Miss America Pageant line, “I want world peace”, to come true for others and ourselves, taking a good look inside and taking responsibility for the resultant choices we make is a first step toward resolving this world of stress and conflict.  If I want to feel peace, know peace and have my children grow up in a world of peace, I need to look in a mirror and at myself first.

How do I go about it?  In over 30 years of counseling, teaching and being a wife/mom, I find 4 areas worthy of personal inventory that could help us strive toward being the peacemaker God calls us to be.  As Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God”. (KJV, NIV)

These four areas are Awareness, Adversity, Acceptance and Action.  Coming this Monday, we here at Teachable Moments have created a 28-day, 5-minute-a-day personal challenge called, Pursuing Peace.  We cover in these 4 weeks our first two spheres of influence, Awareness and Adversity.  We have put countless hours and research into bringing together the key issues that impact how we can pursue peace in our stressed-out world, thinking through key concepts from a theological worldview, pulling from scripture, theologians, biographies, authors and other notable sources and all with a dash of fun.  All for you!

Dear Reader, I desire for you a life that embodies Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. (NIV) I look forward to preparing my heart and mind to think about how my own self-awareness and my perspective and response to adversity can create in me the feeling of peace and stillness my soul desires as well as a deeper relationship with God who holds for me a peace that passes my common comprehension.  I hope you join me!

Blessings Abundant and always fondly yours, Elizabeth

Teachable Moments, Young Adults

Finding my Silent Night

December in Chicago is a big game of hide and seek in so many ways.  I hunt for my stash of gloves so I can help shovel the driveway, or at least give directions on how it should be done.  I hunt for my favorite movies on Netflex, TCM and Hallmark so I can DVR them. I hunt for perfect gifts, the right ingredients and a little bit of peace and quiet now and then.  I do love a Silent Night. But achieving the Silent Night is difficult.

Because I don’t want to miss the opportunities to enjoy the “all is calm, all is bright” moment, I am hunting for ways  to go about achieving more Silent Nights this season than ever before. If scripture is true, and I believe with all my heart it absolutely is, then perhaps Elijah’s experience in 1 Kings 19 in which God meets Elijah in a whisper has something to offer.

“So He said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him.” (1 Kings 19:11-13a)

How do I like Elijah put myself in a position to experience the gentle blowing of God’s spirit to my soul? What mountains do I need to climb? As Elijah climbed a real mountain, I have a journey to make, and like Elijah, I’ll take it a step at a time.

Step Number One:   Who I am on this journey is key to the success of finishing it; I begin by remembering my position in Christ.  You and I are not God’s workhorses, we are His precious children. We’re not human DOINGS, we are human BEINGS. If I don’t just acknowledge this truth, but truly believe it, I will cease striving and recover strength through quiet times. I have a hard time slowing down long enough for my soul to recover its strength; I often must schedule silence in my life or I will have none. I have to schedule time with the Lord in prayer or I will have none. Amidst the chaos – even good chaos – it is important to note that work for the Lord is NEVER more important than my relationship with Him. The discipline of rest through silence, prayer and meditation on scriptural truth is how I can begin to care well for my soul.

Step Number Two:  Soul care entails a sense of stewardship for everything God has so generously given to me. This means being a good steward not only of the stuff God gives me, but of my time, energy, and emotional stability. It is my responsibility to manage them well. I know that when I feel depleted, ineffective, or I can’t finish my sentences because I’ve “run out of me”, I need to pull back and restock.  That takes me making some adjustments in my schedule. This is NOT about saying “no”; it is what I say “yes” to. My “yes’s” need to be effective in Kingdom building and soul building. Some things we will do this season will drain us – that is inevitable.  Some people will drain us. But not all events and people need to. Feeding my soul through eternal worthy events and people who nourish my spirit, brighten my day and encourage who I am in Christ must make the list.

Step Number Three:  Proper soul care means we need to take time now to prepare for tomorrow’s trouble.  I am not a pessimist by nature, but even in my eternal optimism, I am a realist. I know that the time to get on my life jacket is before the Titanic goes down. Tragedies will strike and when they do, it may feel like the soul is suffocating beneath the weight of it all. I want to navigate hard times competently so God accomplishes His goal to do the work He desires to do in me.  We know His ultimate purposes for us is to love Him more fully, to know Him more clearly, and to be conformed more closely to His image. No one can escape trials, but we can miss the potential to learn how to rest more efficiently in Him as we endure. Given the union we have with God when we allow ourselves to rest in Him and be silent amidst our lives, no one should neither avoid resting the soul nor experiencing a difficult time.  We rest when we intentionally self-reflect on what we are thinking, why we are making the decisions we are, and choosing wisely those events and relationships we invest Him. Resting is an active, intentional assessment of our lives and making adjustments accordingly.

Dear Reader, are you receiving the rest and care for your soul that is needed to climb to the summit so you too can meet with God as He speaks to you? I challenge you to schedule silence into your life. Say “yes” wisely and trust Him to bring purpose out of pain.

“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.”-Psalm 62:1