Media Boundaries and Kids

Today on the couch we have my very good friend Joanne Kraft. Joanne and I joke that we met and fell in love at our favorite local coffee shop Santoro’s. Joanne is the one who encouraged me to start a blog and has been a wealth of knowledge to me as I cut my teeth as a newbie writer. She is a wife, mom of 4 great kids, police dispatcher, author of her new book, Just Too Busy and my friend. Joanne is uniquely qualified to talk about media boundaries as she took her family on a radical sabbatical from the busyness of life. So slide over and make some room for Joanne!

The Kaiser Family Foundation recently came out with this study; Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds. The Results were staggering.

• Kids spend more than 7.5 hours with media—TV, iPods, and the Web, plus another two hours on their cell phones, per day.
• Families communicate an average of 40 percent less when the television is on.
• Heavy media users reported lower grades and happiness levels.

As a mom, I create boundaries to keep my children safe. “Hold a hand when crossing the street.” “Eat your carrots, they’ll help you see better.” “No, you can’t stay up that late. You have school in the morning.” “Twizzlers are definitely NOT one of the four food groups.”

What about their screen time? Where were my boundaries there? Dora the Explorer was a welcome guest in our home and Sponge Bob Squarepants spent every afternoon in our family room. As my children grew in age, I realized the greatest boundary-battle of all loomed ahead.

Slaying the media-dragons in our home. As the children have gotten older, we’ve gone from battling the TV to warring against cell phones, Facebook, and video games. (Not necessarily in that order.)

As the matriarch of our home it wasn’t long before I realized I was plugged in a lot, and when I looked around, it was clear I had little constraint with plugged in things. We were battling a fire-spitting media-dragon—our television.

When I stopped to think about it, there were days I gave more of my undivided attention to it than any of my four children combined. It was my daily drug of choice, taking me to far-away places, allowing me to peek inside homes I prayed were more dysfunctional than ours, and taught me more about great white sharks than I cared to admit. Yes, I loved my TV. I couldn’t imagine living without it.

Unfortunately, what was originally created to add a small slice of entertainment fast became the media bully on the block. With my full consent, I allowed it to take center stage and become the biggest time-stealer in our home. Some families create boundaries by allowing only so much media-time each day. We did something radical.

We unplugged our television almost three years ago. It’s been the best decision we’ve ever made. Sure, we still watch a family DVD together with a big bowl of popcorn, but the constant white noise is no longer distracting me from what’s really important, my family.

Electronics were created to make life easier. Instead, they’ve become time-consuming beasts gobbling up any extra moment in our day. Since unplugging, the kids are doing even better in school. Books are seen in the hands of my kids now, and their test scores are soaring. Have I mentioned the greatest advantage? Our home is a sanctuary from the storms of the world. Peace reigns once again.

How about you? What fire spitting media-dragon needs a few boundaries in your home?

Joanne Kraft is the author of Just Too Busy-Taking Your Family on a Radical Sabbatical. She’s a sought-after speaker who loves to encourage women. Joanne is raising her four children in the Sierra Nevada Foothills of Northern California with her husband Paul. Stop by her blog and sign up for her monthly newsletter!

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3 thoughts on “Media Boundaries and Kids

  1. Marni Arnold says:

    I’m on the computer on and off throughout the day drafting blogs, writing, and connecting – but lately, I’ve backed off from being on so much. I get on…do what I have to do…then get off and tackle something needed in the house, play with my kiddo, make a phone call, read a little bit or even catch a little nap at times. I do better in utilizing technology in a balance with my life. I have gone the path of going on tech-diets…tried to avoid TV completely…and even at one time made every effort to try and get rid of my Android phone. Yet, I was demonizing the very things that God does also use to connect His children together. Once I stopped demonizing technology, and started using it as a tool, it became less of a temptation to get sucked into – and now I’m better able to balance my days with my home life, homeschooling, online schooling for me, writing and everything else in between.

  2. Cindy Holman says:

    Great article.  Thought provoking for sure.  Thanks for sharing your friend Joanne with us.  My husband and I have no children at home anymore – we have always had tv and cable when it was available – but my kids were pretty active and preferred to be out with friends or outside growing up so I didn’t stress about it – although many of our friends took a radical approach to “unplug”.  When those kids would come over to our house they were STARVED for some tv programs and movies 🙂  My own niece was never allowed to watch anything either – so she would sneak to a friend’s house – so this has its plus and minuses for sure.  I believe in everything in moderation – and have not gone so radical.  We always had lots of peace and love in our home – even with a few tv programs on in the evening.  Now that it’s just my husband and me we really enjoy watching our favorite programs – I’m not much for live tv and love my DVR so I can adjust my watching around our schedule instead of the other way around.  What did we ever do without VCR recorders and DVRs?  Balance is the key to any home.  The same with anything – computers, cell phones, blogging etc.  I do all of these and am passionate about connecting with people through my writing.  Without these devices it would not be possible to do these things that I value most right now.  I have never had to “take a break” or a “fast” from these things as it gives me purpose and energy in my day and has become a real testimony too. I just have a very different opinion on this – and how I spend my time.  I am in control of it – not the other way around and I don’t consider it an intrusion or an imposition to be available to talk with a friend through an email or facebook message at any time.  If I unplug from these things – I am unavailable to the people I’m trying to connect with.  Easier to do when you don’t have children at home anymore 🙂

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