How Much Podcast Time is Too Much for Kids?

May 14, 2024

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Today's question says, "My 6-year-old son is an only child. He loves listening to podcasts and asks to listen frequently while playing. I worry that his imagination will be stunted if I allow him to listen often. What is an appropriate amount of time for a child to listen to podcasts rather than play in silence?"


Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Hello friends, and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview podcast. Where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the children that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm thrilled that you've joined me today for another episode.

Today's question says, "My 6-year-old son is an only child. He loves listening to podcasts and he asks to listen frequently while he plays. I worry that his imagination will be stunted if I allow him to listen often. What do you feel is an appropriate amount of time for a child to listen to podcasts rather than play in silence?" Now, this is a really interesting question, and I'm sure that the exact details of it do not apply to everyone. However, I do think it's important for us to think through how much time is appropriate for our children to actually learn, just to play quietly and independently versus listening to something versus watching something because we are just inundated with content. There are so many possible shows, so many possible podcasts. I mean, my goodness, right now you're listening to a podcast. So we need to think through what is an appropriate amount of time for our children to be listening to things and watching things versus learning how to play imaginatively and quietly on their own. So that's the question we're going to dive down deep into answering today.

But before we do that, if you have a question that you would like for me to answer on a future Foundation Worldview podcast, you can submit that by going to Also would ask that you invest the few seconds that it takes to rate this content just so that we can get it out to more people, to equip more Christian adults to get their kids to think critically and biblically.

Now, as we think about this situation about how much time is appropriate for a kid to be listening or watching something versus just playing on their own, I think there's a few questions that we should ask ourself. And the first question is, what is the concern? The second question is, what is the goal? And then the third question is, will my concern legitimately hinder the goal?

So for this questioner, the first question, what is my concern? The questioner's concern is that his or her son's imagination will be stunted by listening to podcasts. So that's the concern.

Second question, what is the goal? So for this questioner, the goal is that his or her son will develop a healthy imagination, and I think that's a good goal for us to have for our children, that we want children with healthy imaginations. And one of the reasons for this is to really even understand Scripture. We have to be able to visualize to see a picture in our minds of what is going on. And some of the things that are described in Scripture are not things that we see every day, and so we want to make sure that our children have this ability when they're reading Scripture, to be able to think and to see what is being described. Also, we want to develop their creativity because God created us to create, and so having a healthy imagination is a really important thing. So that is the questioner's goal here, to have their son develop a healthy imagination.

Then the third question is, okay, will my concern legitimately hinder the goal? So will this person's concern that their son will be stunted or that their son's imagination will be stunted by listening to podcasts? Is that a legitimate concern that might impact the goal of their son developing a healthy imagination? Well, I think the answer to that is possibly. I think we need to think through, okay, how can we make sure that engaging our children in a certain form of entertainment is not going to stunt their imagination? Now, the first thing just to say about podcasts as we're thinking through the types of media that our children are involved in, listening to a story or listening to an audio drama or listening to a podcast is much more beneficial than watching a show. Now, I'm not saying our children should never be watching shows, but that listening to something develops much more healthy skills. Watching a show really doesn't require inherently any critical thinking or any visualizing.

Now, those of you at Foundation Worldview who have taken your children through our Biblical Worldview or our Comparative Worldview curriculums, you know that some of the things we're doing in those curriculums is specifically equipping kids to critically evaluate the shows that they're watching. In fact, in our Comparative Worldview curriculum, several times in most of the units, we actually have kids watch a clip from a popular TV show or movie and then evaluate it. However, shows in and of themselves do not inherently lead to critical evaluation or any visualizing because all of the visuals are in front of us. Where listening to a story and being engaged in that story or that drama or just the content being presented that requires some visualization.

I remember the first time that I realized that visualization is so important to reading. It was actually when I was in fifth grade and my mom, she had what she would call every evening for me and for my brother and my sister, our special time. And what our special time was was 15 minutes before we would have to go to bed, she would spend 15 minutes with us, one-on-one just doing something with us. Usually it was reading, but I think sometimes with my brother, maybe potentially my sister, she would do other things, but I just loved reading so much. So with me, my mom, special time was always reading, and there was this certain series of books that I just loved going through with my mom, and we would read it and all of a sudden we were reading one of the books one night. It was probably like the 34th book of the series or something like that. We had read so many of them. All of a sudden I remember pausing and saying, mom, stop. And I was like, when you think about that house that was just described, what does it look like to you? Because all of a sudden I realized, wow, I have this distinct picture in my mind of where this house that's been the main setting of most of the books, what it looks like, where all the different rooms are, the colors, the situation, the landscape around it. And all of a sudden I realized, oh my goodness, my mom might have a different picture in her minds because that's what happens when we visualize. We visualize slightly differently. But equipping our children to visualize to see what they are hearing is so important. And so that can be something that podcasts or audio dramas or stories read aloud.

Those are things that can help develop that visual imagination. Listening to a story or a podcast or an audio drama is also more beneficial than watching a show because it can help improve auditory processing. So there's different ways for us to process information. We can process it visually by seeing it. We can process information physically if we're actually physically touching something or experimenting with something, and we can also process information auditorily. Now, just in general, boys tend to have more issues with auditory processing than girls. Not always. There are some boys that have better auditory processing than some girls, but in general, boys tend to have more issues with auditory processing. So listening to podcasts or listening to audio dramas or listening to books on tape or MP three or CD or whatever it is, can actually help improve that auditory processing. And this is something that I have noticed with my two oldest nephews that my sister-in-Law, she from the youngest of ages, she started reading to my nephews and my nephews are all, boy, they have lots of energy. They love being active, but the minute anyone opens up a book and starts to read, they immediately stop what they're doing and they just listen. And now my oldest nephew who just turned seven, he's really good now at listening to what other people are saying because my sister-in-Law has trained him so well and his auditory processing through all of the reading that she's done with him, and also they have different things like a Tony box and a story bot, just things that they can listen to stories. And the last time I was over at my brother and sister-in-Law's house, my nephew came up and he was like, auntie Beats. That's what my nieces and nephew call nieces and nephews call me. He's like, auntie Beats. And he started asking me some questions about myself. And then as I was answering them, he was just sitting there and listening, and I thought, wow, this is so unique for a just turned 7-year-old to be asking questions and listening. But what my sister-in-Law has done is with all that training has improved his auditory processing.

So I think there can be many benefits to having our kids listening to podcasts and audio dramas. When I was a teacher, I actually, every Friday, immediately after recess, when my students would come back in from recess, what we would do is I would have them listen to an Adventures in Odyssey episode. And after the Adventures in Odyssey episode, I would actually give them just a quick, I think it was like a four or five question quiz so that they would have to listen carefully and they couldn't just zone out that there was some actual accountability there. But what I was doing by having them listening to the Adventures and Odyssey and then answering the four or five question quiz was helping improve their auditory processing. So I think listening to things can be highly beneficial.

However, with that said, we do need space for just silence. We need space for our kids to calm their hearts and their minds and to not have any information coming in through their eyes or their ears. And part of the reason why this is so important is that God did not design us to always be taking in information. We live in a culture where it's so hard for us to understand this. I remember hearing a quote once by CS Lewis where he said that it was going to be harder for man to listen to the voice of God, because even now when he's alone, he's not really alone because he has the radio. And I remember thinking, oh my goodness, if all we had to deal with nowadays was the radio, we can't even pump a gas or get our teeth cleaned at the dentist without information coming at us. There's screens all over the place, even when we're shopping in the grocery store, it's not just quiet. There's music playing. And so God did not design us to always be taking in information. So it is important for us to have some dedicated times where our children are not going to be watching anything. They're not going to be listening to anything. They're not going to be running around. They're going to be still and they're going to be quiet. Now, should this be for four hours a day? Absolutely not. Okay. God didn't design children for that either, but having an hour to an hour and a half of quiet time every day can be so beneficial.

Also, what we see modeled for us in the gospels is that Jesus withdrew himself to quiet places to be alone with God. Now, I know that if we're carving out quiet time for our children, it doesn't automatically mean that they're going to be spending time with God, that they're going to be praying or reading Scripture, but we want to get our children in this habit. And if we're not in this habit, this is something we should help develop in ourselves as well. Do we actually have time throughout the day where we're calm, where we're quiet, where we're not listening to anything or watching anything or even necessarily interacting with anyone? This is something that I think parents need to be really intentional about, is developing this habit of quiet time. Now, I know that there can be exceptional situations where maybe a child has some sort of illness or a disability or something like that where it's not possible to actually have them in their room alone for an hour, just doing something quietly without any noise. So I know that there are those exceptions, but by and large, most children can do that and should be trained to do that.

Now, it takes training. It takes training. You can't just expect to have your child go up to his or her room for an hour and be quiet and just be playing quietly with something or reading something by him or herself. It starts out with training. When I was training my students to silently read, it was one step at a time. I had very high expectations for my students when they were silently reading. I was expecting that they weren't getting up and just looking for new books the whole time. I expected that they weren't just sitting there and letting their eyes wander to a different place in the classroom. I expected that they weren't talking with anyone, that they weren't getting up and going to the bathroom or getting a drink of water, but training them to do that for a half hour a day took time. I started off and I set the expectations the first day of school, and I said, okay, we're going to be still. We're going to have our eyes on the page. We're not going to be talking. Do you think we can do this for three minutes? And the goal is three minutes. And without fail the first time we'd try, within 30 seconds, somebody's eyes would come off the page. And so I'd just flick the lights or shake the bells and say, oh my goodness, we didn't make it. I'm so sorry. And then I'd have that child who didn't do things correctly say, can you remind us of what we're supposed to do? And then the child would remind us and we'd practice again, and we'd practice until everybody got it for three minutes. Then the next day we'd increase it to four minutes, and the next day we'd increase it to five minutes. So training takes time, but by the end of the first month of school, my entire class could sustain silent reading in the manner that I wanted for 30 minutes. And so we want to train our kids to have this quiet time.

Also for you as a parent, it's time that you need that mental break in the middle of the day so that you just have some quiet space where the demands of parenting are not fully upon you, where either you can take a short little nap or you can get things done, or you can spend time in God's word. So it's so important that we have these routines in our home.

Also, for the person who wrote this question, my recommendation for you as you're trying to figure out how much time listening to podcasts versus not listening to podcasts is healthy. Ask your son a few questions to try to figure out why this is something that he enjoys so much. So first, ask him what he enjoys about listening to podcasts. Just say, Hey, bud. I was wondering, I know you like to listen to podcasts a lot. Why do you like podcasts so much? And if he can't think of anything, you can give him several options. Do you like the voices that the person on the podcast used? Do you like the characters on there? Does it make you laugh? Does it make you think different things like that? Then you can follow up by having him draw or recreate with Play-Doh or just describe what he visualized while he was listening to that podcast to make sure that his imagination is continuing to grow as he listens with this podcast.

And then, as I mentioned before, it's really important just to schedule quiet times that he knows about in advance. So if you're thinking, you know what? I really like him for an hour a day not to listen to podcasts. If this is something that's new, don't start off with an hour a day. Start off with 15 minutes a day and say, Hey, bud, you know what? This afternoon, at this time, I'm going to want you to play quietly in your room without any podcast. And then explain to him the reasons I want you to get used to just having some time to think, I want your brain to have time to rest. I want you to get used to having times where you have space to talk to God. I just explained to him why you want him to take some breaks and explain ahead of time. So it's not like he's expecting that he's going to be able to listen to the podcast all day, and then suddenly you're taking it away from him.

So that would be my recommendation for the person who wrote in this question. And then just for anyone else who might be in a different situation, just would really encourage you to think through, okay, what is the percentage of time that you're having your children watch something on a tablet or on a television versus the time that they're listening to something because listening is highly more beneficial. And then what are the times that you have scheduled in just for quiet times, just so that your children have time to rest and refresh, and you do as well?

Well, that's a wrap for this episode. But as always, my prayer for you as you leave this time with Foundation Worldview is that no matter the situation in which you and the children God has placed in your care, find yourselves that you would trust that God is working all things together for your good by using all things to His Son.

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