The One Rule I Never Should Have Changed

If I could go back and do a do over, I would do this one in a heartbeat.

The research is clear:  students will do much much better with less screen time. Here is the one rule that I changed and shouldn’t have…

Half an hour of screen time a day.

Things were so much better when we had this rule in place in our home. Why in the world did we ever back down on this one?!

I was shocked to discover that Gates and Jobs both restricted the use of technology for their kids…really!! Why because they knew better than anyone how addictive and destructive it was!

 Behavioral Addiction

Yes it’s a thing!

In a new book, “Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked,” the social psychologist Adam Alter warns that “many of us — youngsters, teenagers, adults — are addicted to modern digital products. Not figuratively, but literally addicted.”

Today, we have this phenomenon of behavioral addictions where, one tech industry leader told a columnist, “people are spending nearly three hours a day tethered to their cellphones. (Some estimates have students looking at screens 9 hours a day!!) Where teenage boys sometimes spend weeks alone in their rooms playing video games. Where Snapchat will boast that its youthful users open their app more than 18 times a day.”

The people who create video games wouldn’t say they are looking to create addicts. They just want you to spend as much time as possible with their products.

Do Not Waste Your Youth

I am not the devil but if I was, I would make sure that students waste their youth. Why, because they will never make the contributions to this world that they could! Think about this…

What could students do with 3 extra hours a day

  • Read 100 pages
  • Practice an instrument
  • Learn a Skill
  • Volunteer at a center
  • Help out around the house
  • Work at a part time job to sponsor a child
  • Cook a meal
  • Grow a garden
  • Tutor at a public school
  • Become a student leader at church
  • Learn crafts painting sewing clothes design
  • Make a video
  • Improve social and communication skills.
  • Study the Bible

Can you imagine what students at any level could accomplish if they were free three hours a day from looking at what others have created. Can you imagine what college students could accomplish, how they would learn, grow and mature with an extra 21 hours a week?!

So the one rule. Even if I bumped it to 1 hr a day, my young adult kids would still have considerably more time to develop all kinds of skills and be way ahead of their peers.

Wean them off of it!

Many parents are in the difficult position of trying to wean their kids off of Netflix, video games, and social networking… all the best to them. It will take unusual resolve to claw back screen time. 

If you have teenagers in your home one of the best things that you can do for them is limit their use of tech for entertainment.

If you work with parents or students encourage them to put a premium on time together, having an active lifestyle, and severely limiting their screen time. If they invest all of these hours in caring for other and personal development they will be healthier, happier, and more mature than their peers.

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Ron Powell


Ron Powell is the Adviser to the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has been involved in youth ministry for over 30 years. He continues to volunteer, write, teach, and speak to parents, leaders and teens. If you would like to contact him you can email


  1. David Powellsays:

    You’re right. I shudder to think about how this young generation will look like as adults. Even now adults are becoming addicted to screen time. It’s not like in the past where a family would gather around a TV set for a few programs and some shared family entertainment….each family member is on their own device, separated from parents and siblings for hours at a time. The fact that setting limitations is very difficult confirms the idea that screen time is an addiction….a habit that takes much effort to break or even limit!

    • I hear ya Dave and the older they get the more difficult this is. Smart phones go with them everywhere. Many families have the rule that they are charged in the kitchen overnight and never go into a bedroom over night. This makes great sense. So many parents have contacted me concerning their kids being up late at night texting or watching videos. I wrote in another blog about apps for androids and IOS that shut phones down. Many families are making good use of these. Sadly when they get their own phones as young adults and all restrictions are gone, the fear of missing out (FOMO) and the addictive nature of the internet erode most of the good training that was in place. Every generation has had distractions and escapes but this is constantly present and available… a challenge greater than humanity has ever faced.

  2. Kathysays:

    Thank you for this very good reminder. My kids are not yet near teen years, but I limit screen time most days to no more than one hour. Screentime = phone, tv or anything electronic. Sometimes I feel way too harsh when I see my friends being more lax… thanks for the encouragement. Parentings feels like just a stab in the dark sometimes. Haha!

    • You are so right Kathy. You may feel harsh but when your kids can read better, converse with adults, have better memory and a relationship with God you will feel so thankful that you did. I held the line of this one for my oldest daughter for quite a while but should have placed strict limits on her when she got her Iphone. Now she is constantly on it except meal times. She has great social skills and an excellent career but I wonder how constant iphone use is limiting her…and weakening her emotional well being.

      Stick to your guns Kathy!!

  3. Mark Haugsays:

    I Have seen a fair bit of research (axis) which shows that adults spend more time on their devices then youth do… I need to wean myself off this addiction and help youth do the same.

    • I hear you Mark. They pick it up from us. Finding ways to disconnect from devises and spend time together will help steer the next generation in a better connection. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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