Reducing the influence of the media in Catholic homes

Reducing the influence of the media in Catholic homes A Catholic family is pictured having dinner together at their home in Valatie, New York. Photo: OSV News
Silvio Cuéllar

Over a decade ago, my wife Becky and I decided to cut our cable service and go without television. It was a drastic decision at the time, but one that helped our children learn many skills, such as playing instruments, painting and developing their talents at a young age. We made that decision because statistics increasingly indicated that excessive television use was having a negative effect on children, and we wanted to limit its influence.

Today, it is no longer television but cell phones, tablets and social media that have become a source of anxiety for our young people and an addictive tool of bad influences that negatively affect their mental health, leading our children away from the faith and values we try to instil.

Although television is being used less and less today, streaming services have increased, making it increasingly difficult for parents to monitor what their children are watching.


Statistics and studies show that the excessive use of social media negatively affects the mental health of young people and adolescents; we urgently need to put limits on the time our children spend in front of a monitor, whether on the phone, tablet, or computer.

As Pope Francis said in his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, families “need to consider what they want their children to be exposed to”.

To do this, “means being concerned about who is providing their entertainment, who is entering their rooms through television and electronic devices, and with whom they are spending their free time.”

Some strategies to reduce the influence of the media:

Promote electronic-free family activities. One may be to turn off all electronic devices during family dinners, encouraging conversations between parents and children.

You can ask, for example: How about telling us something you are thankful for? Or, Would you like to share a good thing that happened to you this week?

Set specific times for media and technology use in the home. This can also be done by setting limits for each smartphone app, reviewing screen time every week and making adjustments accordingly. This requires us as parents to be more involved in our children’s lives and activities.

“In our home, we subscribe to Pure Flix, and we also follow the series The Chosen, which is based on the life of Jesus with his Apostles”

Decide as parents what the appropriate age for children to have access to a cell phone is. In our household, we say 15 years old, but some parents may have different opinions. The important thing is supervision.

Establish good routines to encourage the practice of faith, dedicating time for family prayer and reflection.

Dedicate more time to sports, arts, after-school clubs and other activities that help develop their talents.

Promote selective media consumption, prioritising inspirational content that nurtures faith and Catholic values. For example, in our home, we subscribe to Pure Flix, and we also follow the series The Chosen, which is based on the life of Jesus with his Apostles.

Finally, encourage Bible reading and participation in the parish youth group or look for one in the area if your parish does not have one.

Example and communication

It is not enough to make rules or set limits; we as parents are also responsible for modelling good behaviour and setting an example. We can’t ask them not to drink if we consume alcohol without measure.

We cannot tell them not to use their phones excessively if we use our phones all the time.

“Excessive exposure to social media has a negative effect on our children’s mental, spiritual and physical health”

It is also essential to develop good communication techniques with them, explaining what we expect from them, knowing how to listen to them, and applying consequences when they do not behave as expected.

Pope Francis also said, “Families cannot help but be places of support, guidance and direction, however much they may have to rethink their methods and discover new resources”.

“Only if we devote time to our children, speaking of important things with simplicity and concern, and finding healthy ways for them to spend their time, will we be able to shield them from harm,” he wrote in Amoris Laetitia.

Excessive exposure to social media has a negative effect on our children’s mental, spiritual and physical health.

At the same time, parents must not only set limits but also lead by example, finding a balance and filling our children’s time with positive activities that help develop their talents.

This is not to mention the practice of our faith at home and the opportunities that may present themselves in our parish community.

A start might be to choose a week in May, as is done in many places in the United States, and declare it a screen-free week, opting for fun and positive activities for the whole family.

That can be the beginning of new positive habits for our family that lead us to use less media and spend more time as a family doing things that nourish our body, mind – and also our faith.

Silvio Cuéllar is a writer, liturgical music composer and journalist. He is a former coordinator of the Hispanic Ministry office and editor of El Católico de Rhode Island newspaper in the Diocese of Providence.