Solid Advice on Helping Your Kids With Screen Time

“Esther is a very special friend of Cathy’s and mine. She has spent much of her adult life working as a missionary in the Philippines and before that in Korea. This guest blog is a great reminder to monitor screen time with our kids.”

Back when I was doing full time youth ministry in the 90s, Christine, one of the youth in leadership, ran up to me and said one of the best things any of my youth have ever said. “You have ruined TV for me. I keep seeing Jesus sitting next to me.” The week prior I had done a message on evaluating our media choices and had given the advice. ‘What ever you are doing (reading, movie, TV, music) imagine that Jesus is sitting next to you. If you are embarrassed, perhaps you should make a different choice.’

I have been dumbstruck at the amount of “positive drug use messages” on TV today. Nearly every Netflix show I watch (especially the ones targeting youth) are all about the cool kids doing drugs and how much better the uptight [good] kids are when they finally take a toke. Now the kids doing the hard stuff have troubles – but usually only one or two, everyone else seems to be cool because they don’t “overdo” Just watched two episodes of “Black AF” which the title alone is disturbing, but it’s the creator of Blackish and I wanted to see a show by a critically acclaimed and popular writer – Both episodes are all about stupid, irresponsible parents who play around with drugs (weed, Molly) and don’t like, but accept their kids use of weed. Just this week I tried 3 different shows that ALL lift up positive images of drug use, and teen drinking is a non-issue. It seems that parents don’t have a chance to keep their kids from trying drugs. Hollywood is killing us.

Now, more than ever, it is imperative that parents and those working with youth be aware of the media intake of their youth. Especially because now, more than ever, youth have more access to pretty much anything and everything.

1. Limit phone and media use at home

2. Set parental limits on your internet and cable boxes (Netflix and other services allow limits set on your service for certain users. At our orphanage, the kids and staff only have devices that can log into ONE user that has ratings settings so I can watch an R rated movie if I choose)

3. Watch and listen with your kids and watch their responses to what they are seeing.

4. Talk to them about what you are seeing. ASK them what they think. Too often parents assume their children have their values with out being explicit about what those values are. Yet, teens are taking their ideas from media because the message is relentless, and mentioning once that you don’t want your kids to take drugs is not going to do it.

5. Always come from a position of compassion and care – not demand or censure. “I feel this way, because I don’t want to lose you, etc.”

6. Anecdotal evidence balanced with statistics will carry more weight because teens think it will never happen to them. So facts need to be balanced with stories.

7. Keep the conversation ALIVE and REGULAR ( you could even put it on your calendar to bring it up once a week at dinner) Which having at least one family meal a day goes a long way to knowing what your child is doing

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Esther M. Berg

Esther Berg is a missionary in the Philippines, on a sabbatical living in the United States. Esther has degrees from Azusa Pacific University and Princeton Theological Seminary. For more information on her wonderful work in the Philippines check out

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