J.C. Derrick: Screen-time distractions

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, November 26th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Screen time can be a blessing or a curse depending on how much or for what purpose you use it.

But the evidence is in now for keeping it limited.

Here is Managing Editor J.C. Derrick.

J.C. DERRICK, MANAGING EDITOR: Recently Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse made this provocative tweet:

“A pediatrician yesterday [said]—quote—“There are two Americas in my office every week. And the primary difference between them is whether they’re from unlimited screen time families vs. limited screen time families.” End quote.

That’s anecdotal, of course, not scientific. Which is why it set off a firestorm of debate in the comments.

And yet, new research is showing that story of two Americas might not be so anecdotal.

Psychology professors Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell recently examined associations between screen time and actual diagnoses of anxiety or depression. The huge study uses a random sample of more than 40,000 minors ages 2 to 17 in the U.S.

The findings are downright disturbing.

Among them: Smartphones and tablets may cause mental health problems for children as young as 2. As little as one hour of screen time often triggered less curiosity, less emotional stability, and less self-control. And it became harder to make friends.

The association between well-being and screen time only grew among older participants. For high screen users ages 14 to 17, researchers found they were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety.

There’s much more to the study, and we’ll post a link to it at worldandeverything.org (see here).

All this made me think of a 2017 book I recently read. It’s called The Tech-Wise Family, by Andy Crouch.

It tackles some of the most difficult questions about technology in the home—and specifically, how to approach them from a Biblical worldview.

Faithful Christians will disagree on the right solutions, but every family should wrestle with these questions. The most important concept is to be intentional—not coasting along on auto-pilot.

But Crouch offers plenty of specifics, too. Like turn off devices at mealtimes. Devices go to bed before you do. They wake up after you do. Turn them off for one day a week. And one week a year.

These ideas intrigued me, so I decided to adopt one of them. Now I turn my phone to airplane mode after dinner on Saturday evenings. And I turn it back on shortly before dinner on Sunday.

It’s not that long to go without a phone, but I’ve found it incredibly freeing. I can read more. I can focus on my family and church without the constant temptation to pull out my phone and check for that phantom urgent message that never comes. (But distractions always do.)

Even in such a short time, I’ve learned that it’s enough to break my addiction to checking for notifications. That urge will be back by Saturday, I know. But I’m breaking the cycle and redeeming time I can never get back.

I hope you’ll consider doing the same—and let me know how it goes.

For WORLD Radio, I’m J.C. Derrick.

(Photo/zeitfaenger.at, Flickr)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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3 comments on J.C. Derrick: Screen-time distractions

  1. Daniel F.A Hitchcock says:

    Where do you post items you mention in the pod-cast? Looking for the Twinge & Campbell article and can’t locate your link for it. Please reply to my email address–thanks!

  2. Steve Lambert says:

    Concur with comment above–where is the Twinge & Campbell article?

    1. J.C. Derrick says:

      It’s embedded in the text, but here’s a direct link: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335518301827

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