Unplug and Reconnect

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You’re in a restaurant and can’t help but notice a nearby family: the middle-school daughter has her earbuds securely in place, staring off into space. The elementary-age son is fixated on the device in his hands. And Mom and Dad are both scanning their phones. 

Have you seen this all-too-common scenario?

Media use is off the charts.
Teens (age 13 to 18) consume an average of 9 hours of entertainment media per day, and tweens (age 8 to 12) use an average of 6 hours, not including time spent using media for school or homework, according to a 2015 census report from Common Sense Media, a child-advocacy group based in San Francisco.

25% of teens say their parents know only “a little” or “nothing” about what they do or say online.
As you’d imagine, mobile device use is on the rise as well, now accounting for 41% of all screen time among tweens and 46% among teens.

For the younger children?
Overall, children 8 and younger spend an average of 2.25 hours per day with screen media, and 42% of these children have their own tablet device.

So no wonder the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) must be vigilant, continually releasing updated guidelines on children’s use of internet, TV, mobile devices and video games. They also have an online tool for parents to create a personalized “Family Media Use Plan.” Jenny Radesky, MD, of FAAP said, “Families should proactively think about their children’s media use and talk with children about it, because too much media use can mean that children don’t have enough time during the day to play, study, talk or sleep.”

The heart of the recommendations?
Consistent limits need to be set on the amount of media time used for entertainment purposes, and it should never take the place of sleep, physical activity or other healthy behaviors. Children younger than 18 months should avoid use of all screen media other than video-chatting with family. For children 18-24 months, if they have any screen interaction it should be high-quality, educational programming with parents watching alongside to help explain what they are seeing. They also suggest having a no-device rule during meals and after bedtime, and keeping television and internet-accessible devices out of kids’ bedrooms.

And Mom and Dad need to follow the same rules.




White, James Emery "Time to Unplug Your Family," 955 The Fish, read online.

Michael Robb, “Tweens, Teens, and Screens: What Our New Research Uncovers,” Common Sense Media, November 2, 2015, read online.

“The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens (2015),” read pdf.

“The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Kids Age Zero to Eight (2017),” read pdf.

“American Academy of Pediatrics Announces New Recommendations for Children’s Media Use,” AAP, October 21, 2016, read online.

Andrea Petersen, “Pediatricians Set Limits on Screen Time,” The Wall Street Journal, October 28, 2013, read online.

Create your own Family Media Use Plan HERE.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.

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