I drove through the neighborhood near our home in the middle of a warm summer day. I know the families who live in those homes. I have seen their children climb on buses during the academic year.
And yet, as I drove, I did not see one child. Not one kid ran or biked or jumped. Not one child drew with chalk on the driveway. No one yelled “Red rover, red rover,” or blew bubbles, or jumped rope, or climbed a tree, or lay in the grass looking for pictures in the clouds. Not one.
Today, children play inside. They play with remotes and stare at the game on their TV screens. They watch movies and sit-coms and sit on the couch. They spend hours on the computer zinging one-liners at friends. Their clothes are now made with pockets for devices that deliver endless hours of music to their developing ears. They stay inside where electricity reigns while the wonder of creation goes undiscovered and unseen. Do we have to live like this?
In our family, we are in the midst of reducing our exposure to media, and it is a task we are struggling through. The open schedule of summer makes this work both easier and more difficult. When children are home during these warm months, the lure of screens is constant. With 24/7 programming, there is always something they can watch on TV. Computers draw them into social media, and gaming systems beckon to the conquering of the next amazing level. With school done and the day available, there is far more time to spend on all these things.
And yet, outside in the sunshine, there is so much to do! Bike rides to take, trails to explore, balls to throw, trees to climb, and thoughts to think. There are animals to observe, insects to inspect, and the wonder of creation--God-dreamed and perfect--to immerse ourselves in, discovering its intricacies. When our faces are pressed into our personal screens, we miss out on fellowship and all of the blessings of being in community.
So shall we do away with screens altogether? Unplug ourselves and stay outside? Yet media itself is one of God's good gifts. We have the task of discovering how to use this gift well without making an idol out of the gift itself. Balance is a wonderful thing and teaching discernment is, as well. Here are some ideas we are trying that you might benefit from too.
The summer is an incredible time. Our schedules slow and we have time to share. It is time we need to protect and to use. Our children need time to explore creation and, in doing so, learn more about the Creator, too. What better way to use the days we have been given!
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Deb Koster