Dr. Alice Benton is one of my favorite Christian counselors. She is brilliant and integrates her faith in such a wonderful manner. I love her new book, Understanding and Loving Your Child in a Screen-Saturated World. I don’t know a parent in the universe who would not benefit from it. I get the privilege to sometimes share the studio with her on New Life Live, America’s #1 Christian Counseling broadcast. I’m always so inspired by her insight. We are putting out two great blogs by her and I recommend you get to learn more about her at dralicebenton.com. Here is her second blog, Addressing Spousal Conflict Regarding Screen Use.
Addressing Spousal Conflict Regarding Screen Use
Digital devices are potentially a great blessing. They can be fun and enriching. My family’s screen use enhances our interactions in multiple ways. And it is the avenue from which I work all day. Thank You, God, for screens!
Managing our family’s use of digital devices also consumes a great deal of our parental time, patience, and energy. Spouses frequently fall at separate ends of the spectrum when it comes to screen management. Usually, a digital limiter is paired with a digital enabler. In other words, one parent tends to want to limit screen use while the other is lenient. That difference can lead to significant spousal tension.
My research taught me that my constant desire to get my children off screen could actually increase their vulnerability to secretly misuse their screens in the long run. Children of digital limiters are more likely to access pornography (1). Children whose parents intentionally go online and onscreen with them (digital mentors) are more likely to develop better habits than those who rarely access screens. Fathers are customarily inclined to be more flexible with screen use than mothers, sometimes falling into an enabling, permissive approach. Fathers are more likely to enjoy teaching and playing video games with their children, which can promote bonding.
Ladies, if you are anxious limiters by nature, you and I could learn a thing or two from our more relaxed spouses. Usually, a middle ground approach combining aspects of both spouse’s style is more helpful than either stance alone.
Consider these steps to invite your spouse to meet you in the middle:
- Seek wisdom individually in prayer asking for clarity about your spouse’s positive characteristics, and for revelation about your own shortcomings. I can be anxiously controlling and self-righteously superior about my screen use. I was stepping on toes in my hurry to turn my family’s screens off, while hypocritically engaging in digital entertainment, justifying it as “work-related.”
- Confess the realization of your own flaws while praising your spouse’s strengths. I confessed that I was fearfully controlling and I thanked my husband for being a digital mentor with our children, introducing them to a number of enjoyable and educational video games and shows.
- Ask for your spouse’s support in one doable screen management change. You might offer three options: decrease the daily screen time allowance, keep screens away from the meal table, or keep screens out of the children’s beds. Invite your spouse to choose.
- If your spouse declines to assist at all, there is likely some unresolved hurt or frustration. Gently ask if your spouse would explain the disagreement and listen without justifying or defending yourself. Request that you both pray for clarity and God’s guidance. Identify when your spouse would be willing to revisit your request.
For some, there is a history of unaddressed conflict that makes compromise difficult if not impossible. Those underlying hurts must be processed in order to then address screen management later. Digital escape can be one method of coping with family conflict. Until the conflict is resolved, it can be too overwhelming to surrender or decrease digital coping.
Approaching family problems with prayer, humility, praise, and a gentle request for compromise can be an effective olive branch. If that does not work spread out over time, consider accessing professional counseling assistance.
- Alexandra Samuel. Parents: Reject Technology Shame. The Atlantic. 2015. Retrieved on 2/22/2021 from https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/11/why-parents-shouldnt-feel-technology-shame/414163/
- Minges, K. E., Owen, N., Salmon, J., Chao, A., Dunstan, D. W., & Whittemore, R. (2015). Reducing youth screen time: qualitative metasynthesis of findings on barriers and facilitators. Health psychology : official journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association, 34(4), 381–397.