This children’s screen time limits and problems prayer for parents connects us to God’s help when our children spend too much time on computers, laptops, phones, TV and video games.
Setting screen time limits is one of the most pressing daily issues of modern parenting.
This is a guided prayer divided into 3 sections where different topics will prompt you to talk to God about the specifics of your child’s screen time use.
Section 1 Children’s screen time limits prayer: The signs of too much screen time
Dear Father God,
I thank you that you care about the details of my life and my family’s life. Thank you for being there to help me and guide me.
You know that I’m concerned about how much time my child is spending on screen time. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do, especially when my child pushes back when I ask them to turn off their device.
Please give me insight into the warning signs that too much screen time is negatively affecting my child and our family.
(Prayerfully consider the following list, making note of the ones that apply to your child. On each one that applies, tell God in detail what you’re observing.)
Here are some of the things I have noticed about my child:
Living in a fantasy world________________________________________________
Not exercising, not being as active physically ________________________________
Less interaction with family, friends ________________________________________
Being impulsive ________________________________________________________
Obsessing over screen time, games, text messages etc. _________________________
Becoming isolated and withdrawn from others ___________________________
Attitude changes _________________________________________________________
Less verbal, less communicative _____________________________________________
Not using time wisely and neglecting school work etc. ___________________________
Inability to set their own limits on how much time they spend _____________________
Being bored by other life experiences that aren’t as exciting as electronics ___________
Feeling less compassion and empathy _________________________________________
Eye strain, posture problems ________________________________________________
Sleep problems, depression, anxiety __________________________________________
Thank you for listening and helping me understand more fully what’s going on.
Give me insight and wisdom. Amen
They dynamics of this prayer section
Once we see how too much screen time affects us all, we realize that we need help. It’s not simply a daily annoyance. Setting children’s screen time limits is an issue that can have huge impacts. Targeted prayer, meditation and reflection enable us to see the unhealthy patterns that have developed so we can find how to guide our child to make better choices.
We put together the list of symptoms in our prayer based on input from parents and also from scientific studies. A 2018 NIH study found that children who spent 2 hours a day on screens got lower scores on reasoning/thinking and language skills. It further found that 7 hours of screen time led to actual changes to brain structure.
Although parents may not see intellectual changes right away, they easily see behavior changes. One couple told me that when their 7 year-old son overdid it on screen time, he was fussy, impatient, defiant, uncooperative and obstinate. When forced to turn off his video game, he sat slumped on the sofa with his arms crossed, his lip poked out and his forehead scrunched up with a mad look. He wouldn’t let anyone talk to him or touch him. This stressed out the whole family. And when other people saw this behavior, the parents felt embarrassed and guilty that they weren’t being good parents.
The Bible assures us that any efforts we make to set our children on a better course has lasting effects throughout their lifetime. The Bible tells us, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 ESV)
Children’s screen time limits prayer section 2: Your issues, worries and challenges as a parent
Thank you for helping me be aware of the behaviors of my child that show me that we need your help in keeping their screen time from getting out of hand.
Before I look for solutions, I want to tell you the things that worry me most.
(Prayerfully consider the following list, making note of the ones that apply to you. On each one that applies, tell God in detail what you’re feeling.)
The anonymity of sites that makes it so I don’t know exactly who might be interacting with my child ___________________________________
The foul language my child is being exposed to and tempted to use _______________________________________
The moral values they may be unconsciously learning, such as instant gratification and materialism _________
Online bullying _______________________________________
Online violence and games ____________________________________________
Escapism instead of facing problems ____________________________________________
Disagreements with spouse about how to handle screen time, restrictions and punishments ____________________________
Using screen time to occupy my child so I can do other things _____________________
Consistently enforcing limits _____________________________________
My own screen time habits I don’t want my child to copy _________________________________
Feeling like “the bad guy” ______________________________________________________________
Being short tempered and yelling at my child about screen time _______________________________
My lack of time or mental energy to monitor screen time and offer alternate activities _____________________________________
God, it’s scary that my child is immersed in an alternate world outside of the safety of our home even when they’re right here with me.
Please protect my child from predators and bullies. Guard their hearts from the influences of violent games and inappropriate language and behaviors.
Protect my child’s emotions and mental health. Show them how to distinguish between reality and fantasy.
Give me the wisdom, patience, time and energy I need to monitor my child’s screen time. Alert me to any dangers that need my vigilance and intervention.
I’m trying hard to stay calm and not get angry and yell at my child when they don’t cooperate. Thank you for the times I’ve succeeded. And forgive me for the times I haven’t.
Open up the lines of communication between me and my spouse about screen time limits. Show us how to get on the same page before either of us tells our child what they can or can’t do.
Help me to be a good role model for my child. Increase my self-discipline with my personal screen time and social media so I can be fully present with my child.
Thank you for hearing my prayer.
They dynamics of this prayer
In order to solve the problem of children’s screen time limits we need to acknowledge and deal with our fears and shortcomings. We also need specific graces like patience when our children push our buttons and make us angry.
Admitting that we need help is an open doorway to prayer. When we prayerfully face our fears, problems and lack of inner graces, we are approaching God as our loving Father. Even though we’re parents ourselves, we never outgrow being God’s children. The Bible says we can call him “Abba” which means Daddy. (Romans 8:15)
We can face our parenting challenges because we ourselves have a strong heavenly parent supporting us. He understands completely how we feel and can respond by helping and comforting us. The Bible says, “Cast your anxiety on Him because he cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7 NIV)
The Bible tells us to ask God for wisdom. “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5 NIV) The Bible also says that God is able to produce graces in us. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22,23 NIV)
Here’s something that happened to one mom that shows the importance of the graces we need. One day the mom found a disturbing text exchange between her 7th grade daughter and a boy at school. The boy used a disrespectful word to describe her daughter. The daughter texted back using a different inappropriate word. The mom was shocked.
When she told her husband about it, things got even more complicated. Her husband hit the roof. He wanted to call the boy and his parents immediately. Her husband had every right to be upset, but his anger made him ready to take matters into his own hands without being on the same page with the mom.
Fortunately the mom was able to persuade the dad not to call the boy or his parents. Instead they decided to use it as a teachable moment for their own daughter.
They found out that her daughter had picked up the worrisome word online on TikTok, where she said it was used all the time.
Then the parents got to the heart of the matter, “You don’t allow a boy or anyone to talk to you that way. You need to respect each other.”
This experience illustrates how quickly parent’s buttons can be pushed when dealing with children’s screen time limits. Buttons are good, meant to alert us to problems. On the other hand, they can alarm us, make us angry and cause us to jump to fiercely protect our child before we have time to think and pray. Whenever your buttons are pushed, consider them to be prayer buzzers that are alerting you to stop, pray and think.
Children’s screen time limits prayer section 3: Finding guidance, practical ideas and resources
Dear God my Heavenly Father,
I thank that your help and guidance are available to me on how to limit my child’s screen time. Guide me to the resources, support and ideas I need that will be effective for my child.
I now consider the following ideas and ask you to fill in the blanks with specific things I can do.
(Mediate over the following list of ideas and then pray about ways to use the ones that stand out to you.)
Find more information about the media or games my child is using, such as learning more about the hidden meanings of emojis or the content of the games __________________________________________________________________
Set up parental controls and block websites _______________________________________
Set up limits as far as length of time or time of day for use of screens ____________________________
Set consequences for violating the limits, such as taking away the child’s device or another privilege_____________________________________
Join an online parent group that focuses on parenting in a tech world________________________
Talk with other parents about what they are doing _____________________________
Form a support group with parents of your child’s friends _______________________________
Restrict screen use to the public areas of the house _____________________________________________
Talk with a youth minister _______________________________________________________________
Talk with teachers for advice and information___________________________________________
Pray daily with your child about their safety online ________________________________________
Encourage outside activities, sports and creative outlets _____________________________________
Play online games with your child _________________________________________________________
Contact a psychologist or other professional, especially if your child isolates, becomes depressed or obsessed ___________________________________________________________
Involve your child in church activities ______________________________________________________
Have your child earn screen time minutes by doing positive things or tasks or by completing school assignments and keeping up their grades ________________________
Tell your child that in order to keep using devices, you will periodically view their conversations and interactions __________________________________________________
God, I thank you that you care about the details of my life. When you gave us the Ten Commandments you were being kind and loving by writing out specific rules to follow for our own good. Give me wisdom in putting together good rules for our family that will work, will protect my child and will make our lives more predictable and stable.
Give me the courage to wisely use my authority as a parent to care for and nurture my child. Use my intellect and reasoning power. Keep my heart focused on my deep love for my child, especially when I have to tell them no.
Send others into my life who can help and support me. Open my ears to good wisdom. Give me the courage to start over if something doesn’t work and the courage to apologize to my child if I overreact.
Most of all, deepen my relationship with you. Help me to call on you when I need guidance and to learn how to find the answers you send me. And help me not to forget to thank you for the grace you send me every day to be a parent after your own heart.
The dynamics of this prayer
In this section we pray expecting God to lead us to the ideas, resources and support we need in children’s screen time limits. We often don’t realize how many ways God can speak to us. Many times God speaks through ordinary means, such as a conversation with another parent. Other times it’s a small voice of intuition in the back of our head or a nagging uneasiness. Still other times it’s a feeling of conviction. And sometimes it’s a feeling of peace about a decision.
Once you pray quite specifically about how to limit your child’s screen time, be on the lookout for answers. Being able to perceive God’s guidance is a skill that we learn. The more we practice, the better we get at it. In the end, we begin easily recognizing what God is telling us.
How to pray with your child about screen time limits and problems
We strongly suggest that you daily pray out loud daily with your child about their screen time and online safety. This is effective because it plants in your child’s mind the thought that this is a matter worthy of God’s help. It also reinforces to them that they need protection.
Regularly offering this prayer at a neutral time when screen time isn’t the hot button topic of the moment helps diffuse emotions. And it gives parents the chance to communicate the love and concern we have for the child over this issue.
When my children were growing up, we had a daily prayer time when we tucked them into bed at night. If you haven’t already established a simple prayer time with your child, praying a short sentence for their safety every night is a great way to start.
What you pray will depend on the age of your child. Here are some sample daily prayers:
For a younger child: “Please keep _________________ (child’s name) safe and good about screen time.”
For an older child: “Please help ____________________(child’s name) use their screen time in a safe, respectful and healthy way.”
Sample prayer for when you are having an issue or conflict with an older child about screen time.
“Thank you God that you care about us and you’re always with us to help us grow and learn. You know the problem that’s going on about ___________________’s (child’s name) screen time. Help us to find a good way to solve this problem. Amen.”
An experience from life on setting screen time limits
The mom we mentioned earlier with the daughter who was struggling with text messages that weren’t respectful gave me a number of the ideas in this section.
After the heart-to-heart talk with her daughter about not allowing others to disrespect her, the parents decided to take the phone away. Instead of setting a specific amount of time before they’d give the phone back, they told her that she’d get it back when they saw that she was doing well. Any time she spontaneously helped out without being asked, her mom told her, “That was such a great thing to do. That brings you one step closer to getting your phone back.”
To make a deeper impression on their daughter, in addition to removing the phone, they also removed a privilege – a weekly dance class their daughter liked.
During the time the phone was gone, their daughter found other things to do. Her mom told me, “She rode her bike more, she played at the creek and her room stayed cleaner.”
The phone was given back to their daughter after several months. Her mom told me, “I think she learned a good life lesson.”
About this prayer
I wrote this prayer after asking a mom if she could tell me good topics for writing a prayer that parents would find useful. The first thought that came to her mind was a single word. Temptation. As I questioned her further about what she meant, she used screen time limits as a prime example.
I found it enlightening that she used the word temptation. Temptation is a universal struggle for people of all ages. It’s not just a behavior problem but rather a life skill. We all need to learn to choose the right thing and to be able to say no to the wrong thing.
No wonder screen time limits are a very important thing to pray about! Jesus deemed temptation important enough to put it into the model prayer called the Lord’s Prayer that he taught his disciples. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
One of the pillars of parenting is teaching a child self-discipline and impulse control. They need to learn how to make good choices. Obviously children develop this over time. Until a child learns how to choose well, parents are the ones who create protective boundaries.
As we discussed setting screen time limits, the mom told me that her two children were different. Her oldest had known impulse control issues to begin with, which made it more difficult for her child to break away from the device on her own.
She pointed out that during the school shut down due to Coronavirus, her children were attending school virtually all day, further making their world revolve around screen time. And what did the kids do? Took advantage of it, of course. The mom reported that some of the boys in her son’s elementary school class learned how to do a split screen during school. Many of their parents had no idea their children were playing video games during class!
She told me, “Kids are smarter than you think and they can find ways to do things they want to do. They can find out things from other kids.”
Here are some of the things she does to monitor and limit screen time:
Her daughter’s phone is on a timer to shut it off at a certain time
Screen time is limited to a daily quota
She puts parental blocks on certain sites
Her daughter isn’t allowed to do group chats
Her daughter has to know who she’s talking to
No devices are used in private and all screens must be visible to parents
She asked other parents about the issues they are facing in limiting screen time. Everyone agreed on these three things:
Monitoring screen time is almost a full-time job.
Kids are smarter with technology than their parents.
Limiting screen time is a must.
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Copyright Karen Barber 2021. All rights reserved.