Creating a Media Plan for Your Family
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has some new guidelines to help families create healthy habits for media use – including TV, video, computers, tablets and phones. The advice goes beyond simply setting limits on screen time, and takes into account that quality of content matters. Two doctors at Seattle Children’s Research Institute were closely involved in creating these policies: Dr. Dimitri Christakis wrote the guidelines for children ages 18 months to 5 years old, and Dr. Megan Moreno wrote the guidelines for school-age children and teenagers. Here are some highlights.
Avoid media for children younger than 18 months. As Dr. Christakis puts it, “Infants and young children need laps more than apps.” Very young children can’t absorb much from media, and time spent with devices too often takes the place of important human interaction that comes from playing, talking and reading. One exception to this rule is video-chatting with loved ones.
Limit screen time to one hour per day for children ages 2 to 5. Ideally, this means high-quality media that is co- viewed with a parent. Avoid fast-paced programs and apps; slower-paced content coupled with adult interaction works best to foster learning.
Work together with older kids to set standards. For older children and teens, agree on both the quality and quantity of media use. Help them make positive selections, and co-view when possible. Set clear rules for ‘unplugged’ time, such as during family meals and sleeping hours. Dr. Moreno also warns against media use while doing homework: “They should not be flipping through their phone. Studies have found that digital multitasking results in reduced learning retention.”
Create a media plan that works for your family. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for families. One practical resource is the AAP’s Family Media Plan tool, which helps set personalized guidelines geared toward each family member.
Become a media role model for your child. Help your family prioritize sleep, physical activity and brain development – along with everyday responsibilities such as work, school and family time. After those areas are fulfilled, then allow some time for positive, high-quality media. Parents have the power to help kids develop healthy media habits as part of a happy, well-balanced life. .
Three Types of Rear-Facing Car Seats
All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least 2 years old. Three types of car seats can be used rear-facing. Rear-facing only seats are for infants up to 22 to 45 pounds, depending on the model. When children reach the highest weight or height allowed by the maker of their rear-facing only seat, they should continue to ride rear-facing in a convertible or 3-in-1 seat.
Convertible seats can first be used rear-facing and later can be converted to forward-facing. These seats often have higher weight-height limits for rear-facing use, which makes them ideal for bigger babies and toddlers.
3-in-1 seats can be used rear-facing, forward-facing, or as a booster seat. Visit The Safety Restraint Coalition to learn more.
Reduce SIDS and Suffocation Risk
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently updated its guidelines or reducing the chances of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and suffocation. One new recommendation is for infants to room share (but not bed share) with parents for the first six months of life, and ideally the first year. Room-sharing may decrease the risk of SIDS by as much as 50%.
Another new recommendation concerns breastfeeding. Sleepy, sleep-deprived moms should avoid nursing in a cushioned chair because if the mother falls asleep the infant can slip down into the chair, become trapped and suffocate. Nurse in a bed without loose blankets and pillows, then move baby back to its own sleep surface.
One strong recommendation stays the same: infants should sleep on their backs in a crib that is bare, boring and basic — with no pillows, blankets, bumpers or stuffed animals. The mattress should be firm, with a tight fitted sheet.
Health Risk for Kids: Too Much Salt
Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have found that nearly 90% of kids in the U.S. consume too much salt (sodium). This puts them at risk for high blood pressure and heart disease later in life.
The recommended daily salt intake for kids is 1,900 to 2,300 milligrams (mg), depending on age. The CDC study found that among kids ages 6 to 18, their average daily salt intake is 3,256 mg – which does not include salt added at the table. Daily intake varies greatly by gender, with boys consuming 3,584 mg and girls consuming 2,919 mg. Teens consume more than younger children: kids ages 14 to 18 ingest 3,565 mg daily.
How are kids getting so much salt? Ten types of food account for almost half the salt intake: pizza, Mexican mixed dishes, sandwiches (including burgers), breads, cold cuts, soups, savory snacks, cheese, poultry and plain milk. Plain milk naturally contains sodium; for the other nine, sodium is added during processing or preparation.
Which meals account for the most salt? Dinner accounts for 39% of kids’ daily salt intake, lunch for 31%, breakfast about 15% and snacks about 15%.
Where is this salty food coming from? Foods bought at grocery stores provide 58%, fast food and pizza 16%, and school cafeterias 10%.
What can families do? Read nutrition labels and teach your child to do the same, aiming for foods with less than 140 mg of sodium per serving. Keep the salt shaker off the table and add little or none when cooking. Avoid too much processed food. Instead opt for fresh foods, including lots of fruits and vegetables.
Visit the CDC to learn more.
Dental Sealants Are Recommended
Brushing and flossing are the best ways to keep teeth clean and help prevent cavities. Another safe and effective way for both kids and adults to keep their teeth cavity-free is with dental sealants.
Sealants are a thin, clear protective coating that adheres to the chewing surface of molars (the back teeth). Applying the sealant is quick and painless; your regular dentist can do it. For kids, dental sealants may reduce the risk of decay by nearly 80%.
A child’s first molars appear at about age 6, and their second molars break through at around age 12. Sealing these teeth as soon as they come through will help keep them cavity-free.
Ask your dentist if sealants are a good option for you and your family.
Bullying Is a Serious Probelm
Child-development experts now consider bullying to be a public health problem. In-person bullying affects 18% to 31% of children and youth, while cyberbullying affects 7% to 15%. Both are harmful.
Kids who are bullied may suffer with physical symptoms such as headaches, sleep problems, anxiety, depression and substance abuse. Bullying is linked to an increased risk of school failure and suicide.
Parents must take their child’s concerns seriously, whether the child is a target, bystander or the bully himself or herself. Kids who bully also suffer; they need help to understand their own behavior and stop it. Talk with your child and seek additional support from healthcare providers, school personnel and counselors.
Active Play for Preschoolers
Children ages 3 to 5 need lots of active play to help their bodies and brains develop. Preschoolers should get at least two hours of active play every day, with play being 15 minutes of each hour during their time awake. Be sure they run, jump, dance, climb, explore and play active games like tag or (closely supervised) hide-and-seek.
Find toys that help your child move such as tricycles, wagons and balls. Play outside every day if possible. Dress for the weather and have fun! Local playgrounds and public swimming pools are ideal for both active play and socializing with other children.
Aim for little or no screen time each day (TV, computers, tablets, phones), with a maximum of one hour.