Screen time. We all know what it means. How much time we are spending out of our day looking at some sort of screen. Pope Francis addressed this during a recent trip to Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina over the weekend. It’s been analyzed on how much screen time is too much time. Parents and teachers alike talk about how much screen time our kids should have. But the Pope? That is something that surprised me. As a mother, and a Catholic, naturally I was drawn to this piece from CNS.
Screen time is a big issue in our family. I’m guilty, but of course that’s my job! Yet, I need to learn when to step away and to model that for my son. There was another item that Pope Francis mentioned that caught my attention. He said that we not only needed to monitor our screen time, but also what the content is. He talks about us doing things that are mindless on our computers, and says that too much screen time only takes time away from us being with family and friends.
Pope Francis encourages us to read, and says that he personally gave up television a long time ago. Most of us don’t have a personal assistant to fill us in on the happenings in the world and to monitor our social media for us. However, Pope Francis does get his message across. That is, watch your screen time and make sure that the content is not harmful. He said, (in reference to technology), “when this leads you away from everyday life, family life, social life, and also sports, the arts and we stay glued to the computer, this is a psychological illness,” Pope Francis also talks about consumerism and surfing the net.
A psychological illness?! Then a lot of us are in trouble! I don’t know about having a psychological illness, but hey, he’s the Pope so that’s a powerful statement coming from someone like him. I have made my own attempts at stepping away from the screen. I actually just started to read the Bible before bedtime, and I find it enjoyable. But let’s face it, the majority of us spend too much time at our screens. Retired people are just as guilty as our youth. While they don’t play video games, they too are filling a lot of their time looking at a screen. They surf the net for stock information, recipes, and send chain e-mails and watch hours of television. It’s actually ironic. Our retired folks and our youth are filling up a lot of their time with screen time. I don’t have any statical data, but based on my observations I think that I am pretty accurate.
Yet, technology has allowed me to meet new friends, it has allowed retired folks to stay connected with their tech savvy grandchildren, and it has allowed my son to play video games and connect with his teen friends. I often hear my son belly laugh while playing video games with his friends. He has connected (pardon the pun) with his classmates on-line and they are having fun. They discuss things like setting up a pool party, going to jump street or going to a movie (I know, more screen time). Yet, my son and his friends are together, it gets them out and I think technology has assisted my son in keeping him connected with his friends.
This summer I am making an effort to fill my son’s time with activities that don’t involve screen time. I will monitor my screen time and put a limit on it because it’s healthy for my mind and my heart. Pope Francis is right, we need to be mindful of our screen time and what the content of it is.
(I have also added a link to CNN with more on the visit to Sarajevo by Pope Francis.)
Pope offers ‘Stone Age’ tips to youth for living the digital world well
By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNS) — Whether you still stick to books or magazines or get everything online, Pope Francis said all media should encourage and edify — not enslave.
“Back in my day — the Stone Age — when a book was good, you read it; when the book was bad for you, you chucked it,” he told hundreds of youth in Sarajevo June 6.
The pope ended his one-day visit to the capital of this Balkan nation meeting with young people of different religions and ethnicities who volunteer together with the archdiocesan St. John Paul II Center. He set aside his prepared text and told the young people he would rather take some questions.
One young man said he read that the pope had stopped watching TV a long time ago, and wanted to know what led him to making that choice.
The pope said he decided back in the middle of 1990 to stop because “one night I felt that this was not doing me good, it was alienating me” and he decided to give it up.
He did not give up on movies, however.
When he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, he would go the archdiocesan television station to watch a recorded film he had picked out, which didn’t have the same isolating effect on him, he said.
“Obviously, I am from the Stone Age, I’m ancient!”
Times have changed, he said, and “image” has become all important.
But even in this “age of the image,” people should follow the same standards that ruled back “in the age of books: choose the things that are good for me,” he said.
Those who produce or distribute content, like television stations, have the responsibility of choosing programs that strengthen values, that help people grow and prepare for life, “that build up society, that move us forward, not drag us down.”
Viewers have the responsibility of choosing what’s good, and changing the channel where there is “filth” and things that “make me become vulgar.”
While the quality of content is a concern, it is also critical to limit the amount of time one is tied to the screen, he said.
If “you live glued to the computer and become a slave to the computer, you lose your freedom. And if you look for obscene programs on the computer, you lose your dignity,” he said.
Later, in response to a journalist’s question on the papal plane from Sarajevo back to Rome, the pope said the online or virtual world is a reality “that we cannot ignore; we have to lead it along a good path” and help humanity progress.
“But when this leads you away from everyday life, family life, social life, and also sports, the arts and we stay glued to the computer, this is a psychological illness,” he said.
Negative content, he said, includes pornography and content that is “empty” or devoid of values, like programs that encourage relativism, hedonism and consumerism.
“We know that consumerism is a cancer on society, relativism is a cancer on society, and I will speak about this in the next encyclical” on the environment, to be released June 18.
The pope said some parents do not allow their children to have a computer in their own room, but keep it in a common living space. “These are some little tips that parents find” to deal with the problem of unsuitable content, he said.