Limiting your screen time when you're with your kids

I didn't have a smart phone until my third pregnancy, so I only spent one season of sleepless newborn nights with one. And I don't know how I did it for the first two without one! It was amazing to have blogs, news, and information to read during the endless feeds in the middle of the night. The bright screen of Instagram helped me wake up when I'd only had 4 hours of sleep (or less). I have way more memories saved and captured of Chloe's life than my first two kids, which is very unlikely for the third and last child, and all thanks to my iPhone. So hear me: I love my iPhone. I love taking family selfies. I love technology. I'm incredibly thankful for the Internet. Particularly for mothers, I feel like smart phones are an enormous blessing. But like all good things, it can become an ultimate thing and then we're in trouble.

Tim Keller, in his excellent book Counterfeit Gods, says “An idolatrous attachment can lead you to break any promise, rationalize any indiscretion, or betray any other allegiance, in order to hold on to it. It may drive you to violate all good and proper boundaries. To practice idolatry is to be a slave.” 

I'm sometimes a slave to my iPhone. I've been late because of it. I've become distracted and forgotten important things. I've broken promises. I've seen actually important things as tedious and annoying because of the distraction of my screen.  And all the while, my kids are there. Like all kids these days, they know how smart phones work and they see me on mine.

My friend Lydia set a brilliant goal for herself, and I'm thinking of taking it on for myself (albeit tweaked ever so, since my littles never nap and stay awake for 13-14 straight hours these days). In her own words:

I decided to try something from the month of August to detach from my phone. I won't be checking social media or texts from the hours of 11am-7pm (except if our daughter is napping). Basically, she's starting to notice things, and I don't want her to constantly see me with a phone attached to me. I'll answer phone calls though, and will respond to texts when I get to them in the morning or evening.

They also have a box at their front door for guests to put their phones in as they enter their home, to encourage actual conversation and fellowship. So smart!

Another thing that helps me is that I don't have a data plan, so if I'm out of the house for a significant amount of time each day (always the hope!), I have no option to be connected. I always have my phone in case I need to be reached by Brad or to take pictures, but I'm not engaging in social media or staring at my screen. 

How do you limit your screen time when you're with your kids?


  1. Emily this is such a good point! I've honestly struggled with boundaries in regard to my phone. A lot of times I need to be on it for work since I work from home. I've tried to make an effort to actually look into their eyes and engage when they come to me, even if I'm in the middle of a text or what not, just to show them they're more important than my phone. Thanks for the inspiration though--I really need to tighten up on this!! :)

    1. So good, Amy!! That's a great point. It's not wrong to use your smart phone in front of your kids all the time either, but when we do, to still prioritize them and eye contact is a great way to do that.

  2. This is so good! Tim Keller is the best. I'm definitely trying to be better about this..I don't want to miss out on life because of my phone!

  3. Anonymous24.8.16

    I've been trying so hard to do this! My daughter just turned two, and I also don't want her to always see me with a screen in front of my face.

    I have an android with no data, so I only use my phone for texting or calling. I try to keep even the texting to a minimum when she's awake. If I'm texting too much, she'll tell me, "No phone!" or she'll try to write a message herself.

    We have one laptop that my husband and I share, and once in a while in the morning I need to check for an email that I'm expecting or look up museum hours, the weather, etc. If so, I keep it brief. As soon as I get out the computer, my daughter will come over and ask to see a video of herself, so I'll look up what I need to and then we watch a couple of her short home videos. Then away goes the computer.

    I guess the fact that I don't have a smart phone helps me limit my screen time. As does the fact that we only have one child, so there's not a sibling to entertain her. In the evening or during nap times I try as much as possible to look up only what I need to (which includes this blog on Mon/Wed/Fri :-) ). I'm not on facebook very often anymore and I don't miss it. I don't have time (nor the energy!) to make my house pretty like on pinterest so I usually stay off there as well.

    I'm not sure how I'll work things once she's no longer napping... though hopefully she'll still have a quiet time.

    Your blog is one of the only ones I regularly read. Please keep it coming - I enjoy your suggestions, etc. We also live in a two-bedroom apartment in a city. Some people think we're crazy but it's working for us.