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Monday, October 28th, 2013
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued new guidelines on kids’ screen time – some of which will become incorporated in the well-child visit with a pediatrician. Here’s a breakdown of the key things to know:
Why Issue New Guidelines Now? It’s been over a decade since the AAP issued formal guidelines – so the current “2-hour” limit on screen time is quite dated. As noted in the AAP report, media use is a “dominant” force in kids lives. School-age kids may be spending 8 or more hours looking at a screen – teens might spend close to 11 hours a day. Some of this is productive time, some of it should be avoided. Thus, new guidelines are offered to help parents regulate screen time and give their kids a platform for making good choices to use screen time wisely.
What Are The Two Key Issues For Parents? Pediatricians will be counseled to ask parents two questions during well visits:
- How much recreational screen time does your child or teenager consume daily?
- Is there a television set or Internet-connected device in the child’s bedroom?
Let’s start with “recreational screen time.” It’s acknowledged that kids now use screen time for a variety of purposes – including educational ones. So rather than have an arbitrary number of total “screen time” hours as a guideline, the purpose here is to regulate and limit recreational time. Here the less than 2 hour rule will apply, which is more than reasonable. Kids need to spend time doing other things – like moving their bodies. Trying to cap recreational screen time is realistic and sensible.
The issue of screen time in a kid’s bedroom follows the same principle. Clearly some kids are doing homework in their room and will be using a computer. The point here is to develop some consistent and good practices – especially establishing a rule for turning off the electronics well before bedtime. Using technology is not a good way for kids to unwind and prepare for sleep – and we know that many kids do not get enough sleep. So while having screens in bedrooms – especially with mobile devices – may be common (though not necessarily endorsed), using them right up to bedtime should not be a common practice.
What About Babies? The AAP still does not love the idea of babies staring at screens. Nearly any professional who studies babies will tell you that they need to look at faces, hear voices, and interact with people a lot. This is not going to happen if parents are preoccupied with their mobile device while baby plays with a tablet. So the bottom line is to discourage (not ban) screen time for babies – specifically kids under 2 years of age. It may be added as a corollary that interactive time with baby is more than highly encouraged.
How Do You Make All This Happen? Pediatricians will suggest making a family home use plan for all media, keeping these recommendations in mind. This is a very solid idea, given how much time many of us spend with technology, especially mobile devices that become omnipresent. It will be important to come up with a realistic and enforceable plan for your family and your kids that considers the when and where and how of screen time – including a plan for becoming familiar with and monitoring the content of what your kids are watching. Having some type of plan – and these sensible suggestions to follow – can help parents proactively manage screen time at a time when it is, indeed, “dominant” in our society.
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Baby With Laptop via Shutterstock.com
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Thursday, September 5th, 2013
Schools in 19 states are calculating each student’s Body Mass Index – BMI – and sending the information to parents. The point, of course, is to inform parents if a child is clinically obese – or getting to that point.
There are a number of opinions about this practice. Elisa Zied has illustrated – in her The Scoop on Food blog – the pros and cons of this approach as a method for combating childhood obesity. We know we need to do something to bring down rates of obesity in kids. But is this approach worth pursuing?
I suggest it isn’t.
The reason is that providing information without suggestions for change is typically not influential. I attended an early childhood summit at the Boston Children’s Museum last spring, and it was clear that public health experts believe that parents need strategies for handling a range of complex issues that face them and their kids rather than facts and figures. Simply telling them that their child is obese, without providing real support and ideas for changing that picture, will probably not do much at all. And some worry it will only encourage poor self-image. Look at it this way. If a child is doing poorly in school, the report card that gets sent him lets the parent know that. But without any information about why the child is doing badly (Is the material too hard? Do they need a different study routine? Is there a possible learning disorder? Are they goofing around in class too much?), and without conversation between the school and parents about the next steps, that information does not typically lead to a solution.
Schools do have the potential to educate and influence parents as well as their kids. Rather than sending home a BMI score like it’s another grade, it would make sense to consider educational programs for parents and kids that take on the causes of obesity. They could share strategic information such as the types and amounts of food kids should be eating – and illustrate the caloric realities of fast food. They could provide suggestions for parents who are struggling to buy healthy foods because of the costs – and give them some real options for changing their kids’ diets. Genetics is part of the cause for some – some kids are just more prone to putting weight on easily – and the reality of that should be discussed. More information about how much exercise kids need – and how they should get it – should be part of the mix.
I’m not saying that schools should do this. But I’m saying that if schools want to play a meaningful role in combating childhood obesity, they will need to do much more than just providing a BMI score.
Body Mass Index via Shutterstock.com
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Monday, July 15th, 2013
If your child is a fan of Glee, then you have probably heard of the sad death of actor Cory Monteith. Here are a few tips for talking to your child about his death:
Remember That These Kinds Of Deaths Are Important To Your Child: For tweens and teens, celebrities are important. Kids follow their lives – especially in this age of social media when they have more access than ever to information. They will undoubtedly have emotions (not just sadness but others including anger) stirred up by the death of someone they never met who nonetheless played a role in their life. Be sure to honor and respect that and not be dismissive. Which leads to the next tip …
Think Back To When You Were Young: We all have experienced deaths of celebrities that touched us. Remember how you felt – and the questions you had – when you experienced the death of a public figure. Reflecting on your own experiences will provide a good reminder of what your kid may be feeling and thinking right now.
Start A Conversation: Given that your child is thinking about Monteith’s death – and will continue to hear a lot more about it – it’s important to let them know they can talk to you about it. So just start a conversation – any icebreaker will do. The goal here is not to probe or question or deliver information – it’s just an opening so that they know it’s okay to discuss with you. Let them do the talking and concentrate on listening – find out what’s on their mind. You can even be explicit and say it’s okay to talk more about it whenever they want.
Follow Their Lead: Kids are different. Some will want to talk about it frequently and in detail. Others may just mention something in passing now and then. Some might be emotional, some very calm. Be sensitive to their personalities and do what you do naturally – be supportive and responsive whenever they bring it up.
Be Honest But In An Age Appropriate Way: Monteith’s struggles with addiction are well publicized. You should be ready to have a discussion about addiction and substance use with your kids. Monteith had reported abusing substances in his teen years and your child may be aware of this. You can be respectful of the sadness of his death while, at the same time, discussing honestly the dangers of substance use and abuse, especially in the teen years. Do keep it simple and brief and factual – and anticipate follow-up questions that you will answer in the same style.
Support Your Child’s Efforts To Do Something: Some kids may be motivated to do something. Write a letter, post something online, make a collage. It’s healthy for them to act on their emotions and it’s important to support their efforts. Again bear in mind the first tip – even though they didn’t know Monteith they are still experiencing some type of grief and learning that it’s okay to act on that is a good (if sobering) message.
Be Ready For Deeper Questions: For some kids, the death of someone young, talented and successful can be hard to process. They might have questions about how this could happen. It’s a good time to have a sensitive conversation about how Monteith was as human as anyone else – and how bad things can happen to anyone. Depending on age and personality, some kids might want to talk about death in general – so be ready to have an open conversation on that very big topic (again being a listener first and a talker second).
Cory Monteith via D Free/ Shutterstock.com
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Thursday, June 13th, 2013
Shaming kids in public has become a parenting trend. You’ve seen the stories. Kids forced by their parents to stand in public holding some kind of sign indicating a wrongdoing. It could be that they stole. It could be that they were disrespectful. But the bottom line is that some parents believe that these kind of humiliating moments – or instances of tough love – may have enough impact to change their kid’s behavior for the better.
So … is this a good or bad idea? While I contend that it’s a bad idea, let’s walk through some of the more subtle points.
We typically hear of stories in which parents are extremely frustrated with their kids. Some are afraid that their kids will get into deep trouble. They feel like they have run out of options and don’t know what else to do. So I understand that they are ready to do something. I’ve seen them in many of my own research studies and have also seen them in juvenile court and understand that they want a solution.
But I suggest that a public shaming is not the corrective measure they are looking for. Will it shock a kid in the short term? Maybe. Will it fundamentally change all of the factors that led to the persistent troubling behavior in the first place? Probably not. And that’s the point.
In practice, and in research, you will find kids with all kinds of problems. Acting out, stealing, lying, cheating. Using drugs and drinking. Being disrespectful. It really begins to hit when they hit the early teens. In order to take on these kinds of behaviors, it’s necessary to work with parents and their kids – using methods that have been proven to work across decades of research – to improve three core parenting skills:
Monitoring: Really knowing who your kid hangs out with and what they do – so you can prohibit or change their patterns of behavior when you see warning signs of trouble. This leads us to ….
Limit Setting: Making sure your kid understands the boundaries you set and learning effective methods for applying them with consistency. This only happens by improving ….
Communication: How many arguments would you imagine a parent has had with a child before resorting to shaming kids in public? Would you anticipate that their dynamics revolve around yelling and screaming at each other? Many times it will. Parents and kids need to learn techniques for improving their level of communication with each other. And parents need to develop communication skills that help them shape their kid’s behavior by being authoritative and not authoritarian.
None of these skills come easily or quickly. They take dedicated effort on the part of parents, kids, and their practitioner. But putting in this kind of effort over time can change behavior – over the long term and not just temporarily.
Frustrated parents and kids who are acting out are realities. It’s agreed that parents in these situations need some type of recourse to right the ship. It can be suggested that public shaming teaches kids about power structures and coercive behavior and teaches much less about learning rules and morality and empathy. What’s really required is that parents and kids have an opportunity to work together to improve their relationship so that parents can be more effective on a daily basis and not feel the need to resort to drastic measures that may not have long-term benefits.
Naming and Shaming via Shutterstock.com
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acting-out, Delinquency, Health, Kids Health, parenting styles, Parents, Public Shaming, Tough Love | Categories:
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Friday, May 31st, 2013
The big theme this month was DSM-5. It’s here, we’re reacting – and parents will be dealing with the implications of this diagnostic system for quite some time.
So …. here’s a recap of what was covered this month:
General Issues: Changes Made, Controversies Raised, And What To Expect
An Overview For Parents
The “Saving Normal” Debate
Specific Disorders: What You Need To Know
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder
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ADHD, autism, conduct disorder, DSM 5, Health, Kids Health, Saving Normal | Categories:
Behavior, Genetics, Health, Intervention, Must Read, Parenting, Questions, Red-Hot Parenting