Do your children get grumpy when you tell them to put down the device, shut off the game system or movie? Have you noticed that you are obsessed with Facebook, your favorite Netflix show or constantly window shopping on your device? Maybe your family should try a media fast. We did it in our family and it was great! In fact, I think that one week each month we will continue to do so. But why?
The very last words of the book of 1 John say, “little children, guard yourselves from idols.” You may be thinking that your family doesn’t really have an idolatry problem until…………………………… you try to fast from it for a day or two. What you may find out is that you don’t own the device, but it owns you. Here are a few questions to consider asking yourself about you and your media.
Does it hurt my relationship with God?
You may be thinking “of course not,” but consider the words of Paul in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Are the things that you look at on your devices honorable and pure? Are the video games that your children play filled with violence, murder and evil or are they lovely? Research has shown the effects that violent games are having on the young.1 Do you or your children stay up too late on your devices or watching television and you aren’t able to get up the next morning and spend time alone with Jesus? Does gaming produce feelings of anger in your heart? If your devices are hurting you or your children’s relationship with God be honest about it. The first thing to do is confess it to God and then to your family. If you ignore it, you won’t progress in your sanctification in this area. Be honest and take a break from your device if you need to. Get right with God. I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Does it hurt your relationship with others?
In today’s culture, it is possible to be together and not really be together. Recently, while walking out of the Cheesecake Factory in the Brentwood Mall, I saw at least 8 young teenage girls sitting next to each other. Each of them on their devices. They were together, but they weren’t really together! Their bodies were there, but their minds were in another world. I was able to see it clearly at the mall, but not as clearly at my own home. After this incident at the mall, I started paying more attention to my own life. Many times, I will be reading the news on my phone, my wife will be making a grocery list, my sons will be playing a video game and our girls are on their I-pads simultaneously. There we are in our home together, but not together, just like the girls at the mall. With school, church, sports, music and other activities, families are already going a million different directions. Adding media devices to the mix can be just another distraction from paying attention to each other. I have also noticed that when I am checking my device and one of my children tries to talk with me, I get really aggravated. Here they are in the real world trying to have a conversation with me and I would rather read something on my screen. I don’t like that about myself! I am commanded to “love my neighbor as myself,” not my I-phone as myself. The worst part about this is when I notice that they get aggravated just like I do when they are interrupted. Ugh…. Scientists have confirmed that too much screen time at night leads to less sleep, which in turn leads to irritability toward others.2 Too much screen time also leads to an inability to focus well, which again has repercussions in relationships.3 If these are problems in your family, don’t hide from it. Do something about it.
Does my media intake leave me empty or full?
Have you ever been sitting with someone at a meal or meeting and they are constantly checking their phone? You are sitting in front of them trying to have a conversation with them and they are completely distracted by people, places and ideas that aren’t a part of your conversation. Some people become consumed with checking to see how many likes they got on a Facebook post, or how many people commented on their Instagram picture. All of this “checking” our status is like a person who can’t get satisfied with a plate of food. They need more and more and more affirmation and it’s never enough! If you cannot take a break from media affirmation, it is definitely an idol. I encourage you to do some soul searching if this is you. Please realize that you are not alone. This is a big problem in our culture today and with the power of God, you can be delivered from this. Watch out for your children with this as well. “Approximately 77% of all Americans have a social media profile of some kind,”4 making it easy for nearly anyone to fall in to the trap of needing social media affirmation. Many kids with these profiles become depressed and even suicidal if they feel unloved through social media outlets. If this happens, it is because they have not realized the love of God through Christ. You as a parent must make sure they not only feel love and acceptance from you, but also understand with clarity that they have a God who gave His only Son to have a relationship with them. The gospel is all the “likes” you or your children really need.
On a very positive note
Our media fast led to a lot more time together. The kids went outside and jumped on the trampoline more. I read more books to my younger children. We played more games together and even took walks. It was totally worth it! In fact, we will continue to make it a part of our family’s walk with God. I encourage you to plan a media fast sometime with your family. Make sure and think through some fun activities or family worship ideas that you can do together and don’t forget, “little children, guard yourselves from idols.”
All Scriptures taken from the NASB Bible