How Much Screen Time is Too Much?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently lifted their rule on no screen time for kids under the age of two. Given advances in technology, media is everywhere these days- it’s hard for kids to not get enthralled by a TV, laptop, tablet or smartphone.

“The new guidelines reflect a shift in focus to include not only what is on the screen but also the involvement of the live person in the room to interact in the media experience,” Dr. Katherine Williamson, a CHOC pediatrician, says. Though the AAP says it’s still best for babies less than 18 months to avoid screen time, live video chat is an exception. While babies under 18 months are too young to understand what they are seeing on media screens, some research has shown that babies as young as six months can emotionally engage and interact with a loved one on FaceTime or Skype, for example.

But how you know how much screen time is healthy for your child?

how much screen time
The American Academy of Pediatrics released new guidelines on how much screen time is appropriate for children.

The AAP recommends creating a family media use plan to help your family establish a purpose to consuming media, create healthy habits for screen time, and stay on track with goals.

Keep Kids Safe While Playing Pokémon

Have you or your kids joined the Pokémon Go craze?

The smartphone-based game has picked up steam worldwide, bringing gamers out in droves to hunt for cartoon critters called Pokémon.

While the game is unique and commendable for requiring players to head outside, explore and be active, it has prompted some safety concerns. These simple tips can help parents ensure their children stay safe while playing Pokémon Go.

pokemon go

Don’t use phones or headphones while crossing streets

About half of pedestrian-related injuries in teenagers may be attributed to distracted walking – and the Pokémon trend can only compound these dangers.

Already, according to a 2014 study, among the teens who were hit by a car while walking, 47 percent were listening to music, 20 percent were talking on the phone, and 18 percent were texting.

Parents should insist that children put away their devices and headphones while walking on sidewalks or roads.

Never play while driving

In 2010, about 18 percent of all injury car accidents were attributed to distracted driving. This could mean texting, eating or drinking, talking on a cell phone, grooming, or many other activities that pull attention from the road.

Law enforcement officials say that young and inexperienced drivers are more likely to have an accident because of distracted driving. For a driver of any age, using a cell phone behind the wheel reduces brain functions needed for safe driving by up to 37 percent.

Experts recommend that all drivers turn off their phones or keep them out of reach while behind the wheel.

Be mindful of other pedestrians

Not only are cars a threat as a gamer searches for Pokémon, but other pedestrians can be as well. Be mindful of others’ space and paths of travel.

Further, be watchful for other distracted pedestrians or drivers who might be playing the game and not fully focusing on the road ahead. Make eye contact with drivers before crossing streets.

Don’t play in unsafe locations

Since Pokémon launched in recent weeks, media reports have surfaced of people falling off of cliffs or becoming victims of crimes while playing the game.

To that end, don’t search for Pokémon in locations that are dark, abandoned or otherwise unsafe. Stay in groups and be aware of surroundings.

Rotate screen time with other activities

Children should not exceed more than two hours of screen time each day. Screen time is considered watching TV, playing video games, or using the computer, tablet or smartphones.

Though Pokémon does inspire players to stay active, parents should remind their children of the countless other summertime activities that do not involve screens.

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Keeping Kids Active This Summer

By Michael Molina, MPH, Community Educator at CHOC

Children and adolescents should meet a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity every day. The full 60 minutes doesn’t have to be all at once- you can break it down in smaller sessions such as 15-20 minutes. Being active is an essential part a child’s growth and development, and keeping them healthy. Incorporate these easy tips into your family’s summer plans to make sure everyone gets the physical activity they need and deserve.

Be active with your children

Be a role model for your kids. Children are more likely to stay active when they are having fun with their parents. Using words like “play time” or “fun time” makes it more exciting and appealing than “exercise” or “working out.” Tap into activities or sports that they are interested in, such as walking the dog, playing catch, soccer, riding a bike, or an obstacle course in your backyard.

Parents should encourage physical activities for the whole family, and time together should concentrate on 3 areas:

  • Endurance (increase heart rate)- Run away from the person who’s “it” or balloon tag
  • Strength (using our muscles)-Try crossing the monkey bars. No need for weights for this one; use your body weight for pull-ups, pushups, and sit-ups at the playground
  • Flexibility (stretching our muscles)- Fun yoga poses or something as simple as bending down to tie their shoes

Limit screen time for the entire family

Children should not exceed more than two hours of screen time each day. Screen time is considered watching TV, playing video games, or using the computer, tablet or smartphones.

Children are more likely to eat foods that are high in fat, sugar and sodium during long periods of screen time that surpass their serving size.

Screen time means time away from being active. Long term consequences of being physically inactive increase one’s risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Join a summer camp or program

Look for your city’s summer camps or programs, or join your local Boys and Girls Club.

Ask what types of activities  these summer programs provide for your child and if they are age appropriate. Also try to find ways that you can be involved with the summer program.

Drink plenty of water

Provide water as a source of rehydration, not fruit drinks. Many fruit drinks are advertised as “healthy” drinks because they have images of real fruit on the packages when really it is made with a small percent of real fruit.

Water is a great source of hydration and it is calorie-free.  Try adding slices of real fruit in the water for more flavor.

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Tips for Avoiding Pediatric Sleep Disorders and Coping with Daylight Saving Time

By Dr. Anjalee W. Galion,  CHOC neurologist

Losing an hour of sleep as we “spring forward” to daylight saving time can wreak havoc on sleep schedules this week, especially children who already struggle with sleeping problems. Due to their developing brains, children can be particularly sensitive to sleep deprivation.

According to the National Pediatric Sleep Foundation, about 71 percent of infants wake at least once, and 21 percent of infants wake up three or more times per night.  Thirty percent of parents report their children have difficulty with sleeping – – across all ages.

Signs and symptoms of pediatric sleep disorders

Dr. Anjalee Galion, CHOC Children's Neurologist
Dr. Anjalee Galion, CHOC Pediatric Neurologist

Sleep -deprived children exhibit symptoms differently than adults.  Adults usually experience general daytime sleepiness, whereas children tend to display sleepiness in a variety of ways, such as showing traits of inattention and hyperactivity that are sometimes mistaken for ADHD.  Additionally, sleep deprivation in children causes physical stress, which can contribute to difficulty initiating and maintaining sleep.  Many parents might recognize this trend when trying to keep their children awake until late at night, which can actually lead to children having trouble staying asleep and waking up earlier than normal.

Turn off the TV

The blue light emitted by all screens (TV, computer, smart phones, tablet devices, etc.) can interfere with the way the brain identifies day and night. The brain uses the eyes to give cues to lightness and darkness to set the body’s internal clock, also known as the circadian rhythm. Having “screen time” throughout the day, and especially at night makes it difficult for the body to identify day and night and can cause significant difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.

The National Sleep Foundation found that children with TVs in their rooms are most likely to be among the worst sleepers. The presence of the screen, even if it is turned off, activates the brain and makes it more difficult to go to sleep and stay asleep. Children who get more sleep are more likely to read books as part of their bedtime routines, instead of time in front of a screen. It’s best to encourage children to enjoy reading in the few hours before bedtime.

Daylight saving time tips

Adhering to a consistent sleep schedule – as close as possible to a child’s normal routine – is particularly important during this time.  As easy as it may be to permit kids, who don’t feel sleepy or can’t sleep as a result of the longer days, to stay up later, such a habit will disrupt sleep patterns. The use of blackout shades and a timed night light can serve as consistent cues for little ones, letting them know when it’s time to sleep and time to wake up.

Dr. Anjalee W. Galion is a CHOC pediatric neurologist who is also fellowship trained in sleep medicine. She is actively involved in pediatric sleep medicine research having completed National Institutes of Health – National institute for Neurologic Disorder and Stroke clinical trials fellowship. She has also developed protocols to improve sleep in children with autism.  Dr. Galion is also trained in cognitive behavioral therapy for sleep disorders and has authored a book chapter on the evolution of insomnia from children to adults.  She is actively involved with reading sleep studies and in the comprehensive diagnostic evaluation of children with all types of sleep disorders. 

More articles about healthy sleep and kids:

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  • Does My Child Have a Sleep Disorder?
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Less TV Time Is Still Best For Kids

A recent article by The New York Times, titled “Parents Urged Again to Limit TV for Youngest,” reminded parents of infants and toddlers to limit the time their children spend in front of the TV, computers, and self-described educational games, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

While the topic of the effects of media exposure on children may be old, pediatric experts continue to educate the public on new guidelines, especially in this highly-digital dominated time.

According to the AAP, video screen time provides no educational benefits for children under age 2 and leaves less room for activities that do, such as interacting with others and playing. So far, there is no evidence that exposure to these mediums causes long-term developmental problems, experts said. Still, research shows that young children learn more from real interactions than from situations appearing on video screens. Some learning can take place from media, but it’s a lot lower, the article said.

Recently in a separate AAP study, where over 200 middle school students were surveyed, the results showed a direct link in the viewing of media with high profanity and subsequent aggression. Moreover, the findings provided continued support for ratings and content warnings surrounding profanity use in the media.

Check out the following tips on media exposure, from the experts at CHOC:
• Encourage alternative activities for entertainment for children (reading, drawing, outdoor games).
• Decrease the dependence on television as a babysitter.
• Identify normal media habits for your family (hours, usage and monitoring).
• Praise children for making good viewing decisions.
• Discuss non-violent problem solving techniques (talking, walking away).
• Limit using TV or other electronic gadgets as a reward for good behavior. Instead, try a trip to the park, or a visit to a friend’s house.
• Be a good example to your child by not watching too much TV, or over-using your cell phone and computer. Be involved in other activities, such as reading or walking. Read to your kids.


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