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Moderating Screen Time

Posted on Feb 7, 2017 5:00:00 PM by Laurel Robinson

Should I moderate my child’s screen time?  If so, how can I place limits on my child’s screen time?  These are the questions that linger in every parent’s mind as we go through our hectic days.  We see our kids looking at screens, and we may not always have time to look over their shoulders. But we also have the unique role of seeing their hearts and the fruit of what’s going on in their hearts.Screentime 1.png

Why moderate screen time?

 In kids and adults, online activities can affect the way a person’s brain works. If we are constantly getting pop-up notifications, for example, our brains adapt to this norm and it becomes difficult for us to focus on a singular task for very long even when we want to.  We find ourselves interrupting our tasks with unnecessary distractions because that is how we are accustomed to operating. With this in mind, it would be wise for the entire family to set some boundaries on how electronics, email, social media, and games are used--for emotional and spiritual health.  You can even hold one another accountable to the guidelines you set together.

A recent study shows that a reasonable amount of screen time can actually be healthy for teens.  Researchers in the UK analyzed data that measured the screen time and well-being of just over 120,000 15-year-olds. They found that there was no direct link between screen time and well-being, but that those who used electronics more than a certain amount did experience decreased well-being. To be specific, on average, the teens' well-being peaked at “about 1 hours and 40 minutes of video-game play, about 1 hour 57 minutes of smartphone use, about 3 hours and 41 minutes of watching videos, and about 4 hours and 17 minutes of using computers.”  Any more than that, and the numbers trended toward unhappiness.

There are no magic (or even scientific) formulas to use, for your child is unique and wonderfully made by God. Beyond statistics, the bottom line is that as parents, you know your child’s heart and habits. You are in a position to observe whether screen time is making your child happy or sad, fulfilled or frustrated. There are so many factors to consider and ultimately, you want to encourage activities that enrich their life,and steer them away from those things that spawn dissatisfaction.

Avoiding negative screen time

If you identify a form of “screen time” that seems to be detrimental for your child (e.g., social media that leads to feeling left out, or a video game causing frustration), talk to them about it; help your child form their own conclusions about how to avoid it. Try to frame it in a positive, self-care context. This will be good for them now and in the future. If your child doesn’t choose to avoid it, you have the authority to place limits on their interaction with it. Or you can offer substitute forms of social interaction,entertainment, or whatever they are getting out of it.

Moderating positive screen time.

For any form of “screen time” that seems to make your child happy (e.g., chatting with good friends or building in Minecraft), it is still wise to encourage a time limit. Some clear-cut ways to set limits on screen time include the following:

  • Allow “unlimited” screen time, but only after homework and chores are done.
  • Allow screen time only on weekends.
  • Allow only 30 minutes of screen time after school, as a little break before homework.
  • Allow screen time only when you are present to supervise or be involved.
  • Allow as much screen time as your child “earns” by doing specific chores with specific values set for each chore.

During any allotted screen time, you will still want to be sure that your child spends it on something that is edifying for them!

Limiting Websites.

If your child has access to the internet, consider using an app that can help you supervise what your child is doing online. Covenant Eyes and Disney Circle are two examples of products that you can use to filter and/or review what your child sees online. One mother told me recently that her daughter comes to her with questions instead of Googling things because she knows her Mom sees every site she visits. This has led to good conversations and more engagement that they may not have had. Now that’s a win-win!

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Your Children and Cell Phones: How Young is Too Young?

Posted on Apr 18, 2015 6:00:00 AM by Kim Schlauch

boy with cell phone

Rapid advancements in technology in this day and age have and will continue to revolutionize the way we live our lives.  While these technological advancements offer many benefits, they present a number of challenges to us as parents.  One challenge is the simple notion of determining whether or not having the technology available is reason enough to equip our children with it.

Consider the cell phone, for example.  This device affords the opportunity to communicate virtually anytime, anywhere and provides instant access to information and entertainment.  Research indicates the cell phone is the most quickly adopted consumer technology in the history of the world.  Over 90% of American adults own a cell phone, and while the number of child cell phone users is increasing, the average age of that user is decreasing.  But how young is too young?

Before we answer this question, let’s take a look a few of the pros and cons of children and cell phones.


  • Safety. Cell phones offers a way for you and your child to reach one another in an emergency.  In addition, the GPS function allows you a viable way to keep track of your child’s location.

  • Convenience/Accessibility. The device provides a way to connect with your children if they need to be picked up earlier due to a cancelled practice or you need to inform them of a change in plans.


  • Cost.  With cell phone ownership comes the cost of hardware (including the initial purchase as well as potential replacement expenses due to loss, damage or theft), monthly fees, not to mention the additional charges associated with exceeding the established data plan.

  • Unexpected Consequences. Using the device exposes children to potential risks, such as the possibility of cyber predators, internet access dangers, the transmission of trackable questionable content, text and cyberbullying.

  • Distraction. Providing children with cell phones gives them the ability to connect 24/7, along with the potential for their involvement with the device to interfere with other activities, such as homework, chores, and face-to-face time with family and friends.


So How Young is Too Young?

Answer: It depends on the individual child.

While many have opinions regarding how old children should be before they are given access to a cell phone, it is actually not so much a question of age, but more of readiness.  As the parent, it is up to you to determine whether your child is ready to handle the responsibility of cell phone use.

Here are 3 helpful questions to ask yourself to determine whether or not your child is ready:

1. Why?  Why does your child want the responsibility of owning a cell phone?  “Because all my friends have one!” is not a good reason to offer the privilege.  If you determine there is legitimate merit in your child having his or her own phone, before committing to the expense and potential challenges related to child cell phone ownership, consider whether usage needs can be achieved through other means.  For example, if your child needs an easy way to call home from extra-curricular activities, would it be better to start with the purchase of a prepaid family cell phone that could be borrowed by the child as needed?

2. Is my child ready for the responsibility?  Owning a cell phone is a big responsibility.  As mentioned previously, there is the potential that your child could lose or break the hardware or exceed the data plan limits.  In addition, the device also has the capability to become a major distraction for children, luring them away from their other responsibilities and keeping them connected when they should otherwise be unplugged.

3. Is my child mature enough?  Is your child ready to experience the freedom of cell phone usage as well as the related consquences?  Can your child identify and deal with inappropriate text or internet content?  Does your child understand the privacy risks of interacting with others by phone, text or through the internet?

If you’ve done your due diligence and have determined that your child is old enough in terms of his or her readiness for the responsibility of a cell phone, keep in mind your job has only just begun.  As the parent, your continued role is to set the expectations and the example for cell phone use.  Keep the lines of communication open and monitor usage to ensure your child  is using the cell phone in a safe and responsible manner.

child with cellphone

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Social Media Tips for Parents

Posted on Jan 24, 2015 6:00:00 AM by Kim Schlauch

social media direction sign

At a recent Coffee & Conversation we were pleased to welcome guest speaker, Jared Wastler, Assistant Principal at Liberty High School in Carroll County.  Mr. Wastler, 2014 Maryland Assistant Principal of the Year, has extensive knowledge and experience with kids and social media.  Here are some things he shared with us to help us better navigate the waters of social media with our children.

Social Media:  The Challenges

Most parents of school-aged children can remember a time before social media and even the internet.  Many of us dabble in this technology to some degree; however, our children have grown up on it and are entrenched in it.  This results in several challenges:

Challenge #1:  We do not speak the same language.  While “digital” is a first language for children, it is a second language for most parents.  Not only can the lingo and terminology be confusing to parents, kids have developed their own code system that keeps most of us in the dark.

Challenge #2:  Life online is fast and changes at the speed of light.  As members of the “2.8 second generation,” children of today have short attention spans and do not like to wait for information.  As a result, they have little difficulty keeping up with this rate of change.  It is a different story, however, for their parents.

Challenge #3:  Knowledge does not equal wisdom.  While our children may possess digital knowledge, they do not yet have the life experience to fully understand the consequences of their actions.  For example, they may live under the false assumption that if they delete something questionable they posted on the internet, it will disappear.  What they do not realize is that it still exists in cyberspace and can come back to haunt them later.

The Fears

  • Online Predators:  Who is really on the other end of the screen?  Who are our children talking to?

  • Cyberbullying: With the increase in technology usage and the “luxury” of anonymity, this has become a common occurrence, especially among teenagers.

The Positives

  • Access to Good Educational Resources:  While there are many things on the internet that are not appropriate for young audiences, there are also many sites and experiences available online that are positive and beneficial.

  • The Opportunity to Establish a Positive Online Presence: The internet is currently the first place colleges and employers go to in order to research prospective students and employees.  Therefore, it is beneficial to develop a positive online presence (e.g. creating an online portfolio through the posting of papers, projects, blog entries, etc.)

LCS Computer Class

Social Media Tips For Parents

  1. Be Open and Honest.  Conversation is key.  Help your children understand that you want them to be safe and aware.

  2. Stay Educated.  Things in cyberspace can change quickly and dramatically.  Make the effort to stay up to date in order to stay connected with your kids.

  3. Know the “Hidden Map.”  While today’s delivery channels may be different, the desire to hide things from adults is timeless.  The previous generation’s practice of passing notes behind the teacher’s back has evolved into hiding messages and folders on devices.  Kids know the tricks.  Learn how to access the data they might be trying to hide.

  4. Help your Child Develop a Positive Digital Footprint.   Similar to establishing a credit history, developing a positive digital footprint, or online presence, is a must.  When future potential employers type your child’s name into a search engine, it would be much better if their search resulted in more positive than negative results.  To achieve this, encourage your children to think carefully about what they are posting on social media sites and publishing on the web.  Help them to understand what is appropriate and what is not.  In addition, provide guidance in the development of an online portfolio.

Mr. Wastler concluded the presentation with the following thought:  We live in a connected world and can get anywhere in the world with the click of a mouse.   We need to help our children navigate it.

globe and mouse

For more information and further resources, please visit Mr. Wastler’s website at



How to Maintain Internet and Social Media Safety With Your Child

Posted on Apr 29, 2014 3:50:00 PM by Kim Schlauch

The internet can be a wonderful resource, offering great educational and social benefits.  However, just as threats and pitfalls abound in our physical world, they lurk in the cyber world as well.  Here are some tips that can help you and your child take advantage of the benefits while minimizing the risks associated with the use of the internet and social media sites.


Know the Risks and Dangers

Make sure your child is aware of the potential risks of internet involvement.  Here are four top dangers:

1.  Potential Exposure to Inappropriate Material.

Be aware that even seemingly “clean” internet searches may not always lead to “clean” search results.  In addition, comments and pictures posted to social media sites may not always be appropriate for younger audiences.

2.  Online Predators.

This is someone who uses the internet to steal personal information or to search for victims.  These individuals often go undetected by the victim or may even use a false identity to lure the victim into his or her trap.

3.  Cyberbullying.

This involves the continual posting of nasty comments or embarrassing images as a means to threaten another internet user.

4. Hazards Related to Sharing Too Much Personal Information.

Details, like location and contact information, can fall into the wrong hands, such as online predators, with dire consequences.


Set the Ground Rules

Once you are aware of the dangers, it is important to safeguard your family against internet threats.  Here are some suggestions:

- Identify family “rules for internet use,” including which sites are appropriate to visit, which are not, and utilize parental controls on internet access to restrict access to inappropriate sites

- Adhere to website minimum age requirements (most social networking sites do not allow children under the age of 13 to join)

- Establish guidelines regarding who your child can interact with online (e.g. friends, but not with people they’ve never met in person)

- Ensure your child does not use his or her full name or other identifiable information (e.g. school name, hometown, etc.) online


Remember:  Your Child’s Best Online Protection is You

Taking an active role in your child’s internet activities will help ensure he or she benefits from the wealth of valuable information it offers without being exposed to potential dangers.  Here are some ways you can get involved:

- Become computer literate and educate yourself regarding your child’s preferred sites

- Set up a shared account with your child so you can monitor online activity

- Spend time online with your child to teach him or her appropriate online behavior

- Take your child seriously if he or she reports an uncomfortable or threatening online exchange and follow up accordingly

- Keep the lines of communication open with your child and encourage discussions regarding your child’s online experiences

Knowledge, communication and vigilance are key factors in safeguarding your child against the dangers associated with internet use.   With this in mind, you and your child can work together to minimize the risks and maximize the benefits the internet has to offer.

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