AAP Issues New Guidelines for Children’s Exposure to Digital Media

Children play Tablet on white backgroundHow can a parent know how much technological media is good for his/her developing infant/toddler/child/teenager to be exposed to on a daily basis before it becomes detrimental? Under what circumstances does it become detrimental? How do you determine what too much looks like? It is an especially difficult decision when the devices, programs, and technologies change daily.

In the explosion that has occurred over the past few years, of devices that have gotten smaller, smarter, more compact, offering more options, better graphics, etc., the love-hate relationship has blossomed to levels that invade every phase of everyday living, for all ages, across global lines.

How can you, as a parent, make the judgement call, when even the “experts” were not sure WHAT limits should be set, or even IF they should be set? In October of 2015, the AAP issued some preliminary guidelines in the form of “Advice for Families on Media Use”. Up until then, the 1999 guideline was clear; “No screen time for children under 2 years of age.” That decree was made when TV was THE media in use, before all the new technologies became available.

Finally, as of this past Friday, October 21st, the American Academy of Pediatrics released, in a streaming Facebook-live announcement, the results of a year-long study of the effects of devices on children in different stages of development. It also offered specific tools that could be used as the means by which healthy, positive changes could be made as a family, to improve the media experience, while at the same time allowing the other healthy requirements of childhood to be re-established.

Also clearly stated, was that not all of the media programs offered for young children’s viewing as “educational”, are the ones that are approved and endorsed by the AAP as being positive and helpful for that audience, because of the content. How do you change the habits of your children, if they have been used to being online, on the computer, cell phone, or tablet, etc., for very long periods of time, and from a very young age? First, you clearly have to identify the problem and its source. Then you have to establish or change the rules! And you must stay involved.

The new guidelines that are recommended by the AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS for media interaction for children, are:

  1. Make your own family media use plan. Media should work for you and within your family values and parenting style. When used thoughtfully and appropriately, media can enhance daily life.
  2. Treat media as you would any other environment in your child’s life. The same parenting guidelines apply in both real and virtual environments. Set limits; kids need and expect them.
  3. Set limits and encourage playtime. Media use, like all other activities, should have reasonable limits. Unstructured and offline play stimulates creativity.
  4. Families who play together, learn together. Family participation is also great for media activities—it encourages social interactions, bonding, and learning.
  5. Be a good role model. Teach and model kindness and good manners online. Because children are great mimics, limit your own media use.
  6. Know the value of face-to-face communication. Very young children learn best through two-way communication. Engaging in back-and-forth “talk time” is critical for language development.
  7. Limit digital media for your youngest family members. Avoid digital media for toddlers younger than 18 to 24 months other than video chatting. For children 18 to 24 months, watch digital media with them because they learn from watching and talking with you. Limit screen use for preschool children, ages 2 to 5, to just 1 hour a day of high-quality programing, and watch it with them so you can help them learn from what they’re seeing. See Healthy Digital Media Use Habits for Babies, Toddlers & Preschoolers
  8. Create tech-free zones. Keep family mealtimes, other family and social gatherings, and children’s bedrooms screen free.
  9. Don’t use technology as an emotional pacifier. Media can be very effective in keeping kids calm and quiet, but it should not be the only way they learn to calm down.
  10. Apps for kids – do your homework. More than 80,000 apps are labeled as educational, but little research has demonstrated their actual quality.
  11. It’s OK for your teen to be online. Online relationships are part of typical adolescent development. Social media can support teens as they explore and discover more about themselves and their place in the grown-up world.
  12. Warn children about the importance of privacy and the dangers of predators and sexting. Teens need to know that once content is shared with others, they will not be able to delete or remove it completely, and includes texting of inappropriate pictures.
  13. Remember: Kids will be kids. Kids will make mistakes using media. Try to handle errors with empathy and turn a mistake into a teachable moment.

nancyOn an interesting note, for the first time, the AAP has provided recommendations for what they consider to be acceptable content for viewing by young children – for example “Some media can have educational value for children starting at around 18 months of age, but it’s critically important that this be high-quality programming, such as the content offered by Sesame Workshop and PBS.”

Finally, there is a general consensus that the role of technology in children’s lives – and family lives in general – is evolving. To make it even more challenging, there is NO BASELINE to map against: every child, every family is different and technology will play a unique role in each.

To help families maintain a healthy balance between digital and real life, the AAP has developed an interactive, online tool so families can create a personalized Family Media Use Plan and Media Time Calculator. The Media Use Plan takes you step by step and allocates for each child (based on their age) proper media use such as screen free rooms, screen free times, device curfews, what devices can and can’t be used for what purpose, etc. The Media Time Calculator (see the example provided here) divides 24 hours over typical activities for each child (again based by age) and allows you as a parent to proactively allocate your child’s day, including their media usage. It’s incredibly eye opening to see how much time can easily wind up in Screen Time if not allocated elsewhere.

Overall parents – the results emerging from these announcements are positive. The AAP is looking at digital technology use by families very pragmatically. And like we concluded in our review of their 2015 articleBeyond ‘turn it off’: How to advise families on media use”, it is what your child is doing more than purely how much time they are spending in front of a screen that matters…and the fact that you as parents care…and are asking the questions…and are monitoring…is half the battle.



Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is Sensory Friendly Tomorrow at AMC

New sensory friendly logoAMC Entertainment (AMC) has expanded their Sensory Friendly Films program in partnership with the Autism Society. This Tuesday evening, families affected by autism or other special needs have the opportunity to view a sensory friendly screening of Jack Reacher: Never Go Back a film that may appeal to older audiences on the autism spectrum.

As always, the movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

sensory friendlyDoes it make a difference? Absolutely! Imagine …no need to shhhhh your child. No angry stares from other movie goers. Many parents think twice before bringing a child to a movie theater. Add to that your child’s special needs and it can easily become cause for parental panic. But on this one day a month, for this one screening, everyone is there to relax and have a good time, everyone expects to be surrounded by kids – with and without special needs – and the movie theater policy becomes “Tolerance is Golden“.

AMC and the Autism Society will be showing Jack Reacher: Never Go Back tomorrow, Tuesday, October 25th at 7pm (local time). Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access full list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Coming in November: Trolls (Sat, 11/12), Dr. Strange (Tues, 11/15) and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Sat, 11/26 and Tues, 11/29)


Editor’s note: Although Jack Reacher: Never Go Back has been chosen by AMC and the Autism Society for a Tuesday Sensory Friendly screening, we do want parents to know that it is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for sequences of violence and action, some bloody images, language and thematic elements. As always, please check the IMDB Parents Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your family.

Meditation Tips as Stress Relief for Teens and Young Adults

teen-meditationAs parents, we often long for our young adult life — for the days of nonchalance and many firsts, and we often romanticize this time. What we must remember is that being a teenager is a trying time and today, in the age of constant connection, it is far more challenging being a young adult.

Teens are more stressed than ever — they are pressured by the media and constantly being judged on social media, not to mention the anxiety and the moods that come with hormones and a change in their looks. Beating such angst in a healthy way is ideal for every young adult and one effective way they can do so is through meditation.

This form of stress relief can teach teens how to deal with pressure and to ease those bouts of anxiety. It can help them manage their moods and teach them how to stay positive. Meditation can be done anywhere, it is free and it will help teens feel mentally strong. The following are a few tips to start meditation, so that your kids can learn to fall in love with this ritual.

Start small – It takes time to teach the mind how to stay still during meditation, so rather than starting off with a 30 minute sit down, begin this process with a five to ten minute ritual and then build on time as you go along.

Find a quiet place – Whether that’s in a garden or on a balcony; in your room or in the bathroom, choose a quiet place when you are meditating so that you can concentrate on your mind and breathing.

Switch off your phone – Phone notifications are constantly beeping on our phones so it’s best to put your phone on silent during meditation to avoid distractions. This can go beyond meditation time, where you make it a habit to switch off your phone or at least put it on silent some time during the day. This way, you will have spent less time checking and listening to what others are doing and instead, you will start listening to what you are thinking.

Download an app – There are a number of great meditation apps that can guide you through proper meditation like Smiling Mind, Headspace and more. Download one of these apps if you feel more comfortable being guided.

Learn the different types of meditations – If you’d rather not use an app, then learn the different types of meditations — whether that’s heart breath, mantra meditation, mindfulness meditation or more — so that you can choose the one that suits your needs best.

teen-deep-breathing-prayer-handsListen to your body – Don’t try to control the thoughts in your mind or your breathing. Start the meditation ritual by listening to how your body is feeling and how you are breathing, rather than starting off with breathing deeply in and out. Meditation is about stopping, listening and acknowledging how your body and mind are doing.

Sit comfortably – Don’t feel pressured to sit on the floor with your legs crossed while meditating. A comfortable chair that supports your back can be just as effective. Leave your hands on your lap or where they feel most comfortable and close your eyes.

Try yoga – If you find that you love meditation, then you can try yoga which has many of the meditative qualities found in meditation. Practice at home with the guidance of online videos or join a class and bring meditation into your workouts.

At the end of the day, we cannot protect our teens from feeling pressured, stressed, sad or moody but through the art of meditation, we can teach them to channel their negative moods in a positive manner, so that no matter how overwhelming life gets, they will know how to deal with it in a healthy manner.

What to Expect with Puberty, for Boys

Puberty is the process of growing from a boy into a young man. Here’s what to expect.

When will I start puberty?

boys and pubertyIf puberty hasn’t started yet, don’t worry. Most boys begin when they’re around 13 or 14 years old, but some start earlier and some later.

We all grow and change at different rates, and there’s nothing you can do to make it happen sooner or later. Your body will change when it’s ready.

It’s normal to feel confused or worried sometimes. It can help to talk to someone you trust, such as your dad, mum, brother or a trusted teacher.

What will happen to my body?

There are plenty of signs that puberty has started. Every boy is different, but here are some of the most common changes to look out for:

Getting taller

Your body grows, and it may become more muscular.

Bigger penis and balls

Your testicles and penis grow, and they may feel itchy or uncomfortable.

Unexpected erections

Your body produces more hormones, so you might get erections when you least expect them.

Spots and sweat

Hormones can make you sweaty and spotty, but as long as you have good personal hygiene you can still look and feel healthy. Find out about acne.

Wet dreams

You start producing sperm, and you may have wet dreams in which you ejaculate (release fluid containing sperm out of your penis) while you’re asleep. This is normal.

Hair growth

Areas of your body become more hairy, including your armpits, legs, arms, face, chest and around your penis.

Deeper voice

As your voice begins to break, you might sound croaky for a while, or you might have a high voice one minute and a low voice the next. It will settle down eventually.

Mood swings

You may have mood swings and feel emotional, but your feelings will settle down in time.

Find out more about boys’ bodies, including penis size and sperm.

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 10-10-2016 to 10-16-2016

twitter thumbIn this week’s Children’s Safety News: Why Teens Are Drawn to Social Media Challenges and Dares https://t.co/7VCPgEKzas

Welcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use Twitter and Facebook to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 20 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
Why Prosecuting a Teen Girl for Sexting Is Absurd https://t.co/g1xp7lTKfH
This 14 year old could become a registered sex offender for a “suggestive” picture

6 Ways to Help Ease Your “Clingy” Child’s Anxiety

girl-holds-dads-armExcessive clinginess is a common phase in a child’s early years. It usually starts around 8 or 9 months, peaks at 18 months, and then usually becomes less and less intense, ending around 2 years of age. It is also common around preschool age (the first separation from home) but sometimes is even present in young adolescents in certain anxiety-provoking situations. Though common, it still can be quite unsettling for a parent.

Each child handles stress differently, so the causes of clinginess will be different for each child. A parent’s job is to play detective and figure out what’s causing clinginess. Typical causes include:

  • Unsettling or traumatic experience: Bullying, hospitalization, fear of failure, death or illness of a parent, divorce, natural disaster, attachment gone awry
  • Sudden transition: Moving, arrival of a new sibling
  • A distressing separation: Long separations from a parent, threats of abandonment (“I will leave you if you don’t come along.”)
  • Temperament: Some kids are more like tumbleweeds and roll with the punches; others are like orchids, more sensitive, less adaptable and more tightly strung. Twenty percent of 4-month-olds have a biological “nudge” in the direction of increased fearfulness and are a slower-to-warm child.

Typically a younger child will cling more towards their primary caregiver, which is normally mom, and can be quite unsettling for the other parent – usually dad. It’s why it is helpful to understand child development and know that such behavior is normal and will pass.

Parents have to know that research confirms biology is not destiny. Jerome Kagan’s famous Yale studies* with over-anxious kids discovered that when their parents encouraged their kids to spend time with peers and work through their fears, only one-third of the total number observed still showed timid behavior as they entered adulthood.

Here are a few parenting practices that help make goodbyes less stressful:

  • Find parental substitutes. Find people she trusts–a babysitter, relative, teacher and friends who know your child’s quirks, routines and likes and dislikes. Gradually stretch separation times and slowly broaden your child’s “inner security circle.”
  • Prepare for separations. Studies at Children’s Hospital found that kids whose parents prepared them for a separation were able to leave their parent far easier and protested far less than those not prepared. So drive by the birthday party in advance, go meet the new teacher before the first school day, take an online tour of the school before the move.
  • Teach how to “talk to the worry.” Help your child name the feeling, “I’m scared,” then teach her how to talk back to the fear so she is in charge of the worry and not the other way around. The trick is to have her practice telling herself she’ll be okay to build confidence: “Go away worry, leave me alone. Mommy will come back.”
  • Rehearse social problems. Set up pretend scenarios and role-play specific social problems, like how to meet a new friend or what to say if a stranger approaches.
  • Create “goodbye” rituals. Create a special kiss, or provide a special pebble or keychain to put in her pocket and explain that when she touches it it means you’re thinking of her.
  • Be cool, consistent and leave. A kid’s anxiety increases if you make too big of a deal about leaving or draw it out. So stay calm and show confidence in your child. Reassure her that you’ll be back. Promise to return at the stated time. Give her a watch marked with the time you’ll return. Then do so and remind your child that you did. The key is to establish a consistent pattern of goodbyes that build your child’s confidence so she realizes she can make it through the time apart.

There are three things parents sometimes do that will actually increase clinginess in a child:

  1. Parental anxiety. Parental anxiety feeds into your child, so curb your anxiety and watch how you react. Kids can catch our fears.
  2. Unrealistic expectations. Too high of expectations can cause a child to believe that her efforts are never good enough and avoid the situation.
  3. Overprotection and too much reassurance. Always rescuing or being overprotective robs a child of confidence. The key is to find the balance between pushing and protecting.

Excessive clinginess may be a sign of separation anxiety disorder or another condition, so when in doubt, always consult with a trained mental health professional. As always, trust your instincts. If you’re concerned, get help for your child and don’t wait.

Keep in mind that the goal here is for our kids to learn to cope with life without us, however long it takes.

*Jerome Kagan studies: D. Goleman, Social Intelligence, p. 160.

***************************************************************************************************************Borba - book cover -parentingsolutions140x180

Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research . The Big Book of Parenting Solutions is available at amazon.com