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The Children's Wellness Blog

Frequently Asked Questions about Electronic Devices and Kids

May 23, 2017

Frequently Asked Questions about Electronic Devices and KidsThese days, we’re surrounded by so much media throughout the day that it’s just an accepted part of day-to-day life. But for parents, exposing their child to digital media is a delicate balance. Restricting them from it entirely is impractical, and it’s actually not always the right choice, but giving them free reign throughout the internet can have a variety of negative repercussions. Our board-certified pediatricians at Children’s Wellness Center and the American Academy of Pediatrics have a variety of recommendations to help you navigate the challenges of media and screen time for your children.

Should my goal be to keep my kids away from media as much as possible?

Many parents assume that the best policy is as little screen time as possible. But in reality, for children who are over two years old, media can provide many opportunities for your child to learn and even to bond with you. In truth, your goal should be to plan your child’s use of media so that it is done in a productive way and so that it does not interfere with sleep, childhood exercise, social interaction, or other important activities.

How much screen time is okay for my child?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children less than 18 months old do not use electronics other than video-chatting with long-distance family members. Between 18 and 24 months, if children are exposed to media at all, it should be high-quality and parents should watch with their children. For children ages 2-5, up to one hour of screen time per day can be permitted as long as it is high-quality programming that is watched with a parent. When children reach age 6, they may be able to be more independent with their media use, but you should still set very specific time limits and content rules for them.

How do I begin establishing rules for my children’s use of digital media?

There is certainly a lot to think about in terms of setting rules for your kids. A perfect way to get started is to use the AAP’s Family Media Plan tool. This helpful site guides you through the many types of rules to consider: time limits, media-free rooms, media-free times, online conduct, types of media permitted, etc. Setting media guidelines for your family should also involve detailed discussions of how to maintain privacy and safety online, and organizations like Savvy Cyber Kids are great resources for parents.

Is extra screen time okay if it’s spent using educational content?

While it’s great that you want to give your child as many educational opportunities as possible, time spent with education games and TV shows is still screen time, so it’s still taking away time they could be using for real-world educational experiences as well as physical exercise. There are also a few things to keep in mind regarding educational content. First, not every app, game, or video that is labeled as “educational” truly is, so you should try using the media first to check it out and make sure that it is productive and age-appropriate, that it falls in line with your personal values, and that it is not overloaded with distracting “bells and whistles.” Second, remember that while these programs may give a different perspective or an extra learning opportunity, they do not replace homework. So, in short, do not be too quick to trust educational content, and make sure that they still adhere to your child’s balance between screen time and other necessary activities.

How do I know if my child is spending too much time with digital media?

Too much screen time can have a number of unwanted effects. It can increase the risk of childhood obesity, reduce the amount and quality of sleep, limit the development of social skills, encourage children to dismiss homework or rush it and complete it poorly, and even promote aggression if the screen time is spent viewing violent content. If you notice that your child is beginning to struggle with any of these issues, reducing screen time and/or monitoring their media use more closely may be a good starting point.

Is it okay to use media as a way to keep my child calm?

It’s a good idea for any parent to have a number of tricks up their sleeve for calming their child in a potentially anxious situation. But it’s important not to rely on media as your only tool for doing this.

Are there specific times when I shouldn’t let my child use media at all?

The AAP does suggest establishing certain “media-free times” and “media-free rooms.” For instance, you may want to prohibit the use of digital media in the dining room or kitchen so you can enjoy dinners as a family, and in your children’s bedrooms so it doesn’t disturb their healthy sleep. You can also establish a rule that all cell phones, tablets, portable gaming devices, and other electronics need to charge in the parent’s bedroom each night, so that you know when they’re put away for the evening. And remember, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not having a television in a child’s bedroom.

How do I know the maturity level of the movies and TV shows my child is watching?

It’s a good idea to watch media along with your child so that you can know that it is appropriate and, if necessary, answer any moral questions it raises for your child. However, you can also use the show or movie’s rating as a guide. You can learn more about these ratings from the Motion Picture Association of America and the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. Common Sense Media is another helpful organization. In addition to staying up-to-date on what your child is watching or using, you should be sure to use the parent control settings on your electronics themselves (tablets, phones, etc.) as well as your digital accounts (like your cable provider, YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and more).

As a parent, your goal is to keep your child safe and healthy, and to prepare them for a happy and successful adulthood. Depending on how it is used, digital media can either bring you closer or farther from that goal. The key is planning ahead, finding balance, and keeping open lines of communication with your children at all ages. For more information about keeping your child healthy, visit the Children’s Wellness Center patient portal to schedule a well child appointment or simply give us a call for additional guidance. Or, for more health and safety tips, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

How to Make a Safer Home for Your Child, Part 3: Outdoors

May 15, 2017

How to Make a Safer Home for Your Child, Part 3 OutdoorsJust a quick web search for “childproofing” will give you countless ways to make your home safer. But as thoroughly as many parents prepare the inside of their home, they commonly overlook the largest area: their yard, garage, and other outdoor spaces. Our board-certified pediatricians at Children’s Wellness Center in Atlanta are passionate about keeping children safe and healthy, so we’ve put together a list of measures recommended by trusted sources (our own pediatricians and the American Academy of Pediatrics) that you can take to help your children enjoy the outdoors safely.

  • Ideally, install a fence and make sure your child only stays within the fence, so that he or she cannot run out into the road. If a fence is not feasible, set a very specific border that your child understands not to cross, such as a certain seam in the driveway or a specific tree.
  • Children should be supervised by an attentive adult at all times when they are outside, even if they are only permitted to play in the back yard.
  • Some plants can actually be poisonous for children, so make sure all the varieties of plants in your yard are not toxic. It’s also a good idea to teach your child not to eat anything from a plant they’ve found outside, in case they encounter a dangerous plant at a friend’s house or at a park.
  • Make sure all pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and other lawn care chemicals are in a locked cabinet that is out of your child’s reach. You should also make yourself familiar with the instructions on your lawn care chemicals about how long you need to keep children off your lawn after using the product.
  • If you have a grill, make sure it is secured when it is not in use so it will not tip and fall over. Teach your child not to touch the grill, and make sure propane grills are stored in such a way that your child cannot reach the knobs.
  • Go through the materials stored in your garage and identify any that are potentially dangerous for children, such as paint, antifreeze, gasoline, and most other automotive fluids. Lock these products in a secure cabinet your child cannot reach, and always remember to return the products to this cabinet as soon as you’re finished using them.
  • Keep all tools in a safe area where children cannot reach them, and make sure all power tools stay unplugged when they are not in use.
  • As with your grill, make sure all furniture in the garage or outdoors is not a tipping risk. If it could tip over and injure your child, secure it to the wall or the ground in some way.
  • If you have an automatic garage door, check that the automatic reversing system (which senses when a child is in the way of a closing door and stops the door from continuing to lower) is working properly. Remember to check this on a regular basis.
  • Try to keep your lawn as level as possible and fill in any unused holes in the soil.
  • If you have any type of pond, swimming pool, or fountain in your yard, make sure it is fenced in or blocked off in a way that your child cannot fall into it, and follow other water safety tips for children.
  • If you have a swing set or other playground equipment, follow these safety steps:
    • Surround the area with mats or soft fill materials (like shredded rubber or sand) and extend it at least six feet around the equipment.
    • If you are installing your own playground equipment, follow all instructions closely and make sure you install it on level ground.
    • Check occasionally for any loose nuts and bolts or other issues, and cap all bolts and screws.
    • Do not have any type of rope, clothesline, jump rope, etc. attached to playground equipment.
  • If you have a sandbox, make sure it is made from safe, intact materials. It is common to use old railroad ties, but these often have splinters and may contain unsafe chemicals as well.
  • Make sure any sandboxes are covered when they are not in use so they don’t bring in unwelcome insects or animals. However, if it rains outside, wait for the sandbox to dry out before covering it, because the moisture can leave bacteria growing in sandboxes.
  • If you are using sand around playground equipment or in a sandbox, try to avoid sand that contains tremolite. While manufacturers are not currently required to label sand as containing tremolite, the best choice is to only purchase natural river sand or beach sand, and to avoid sand that is made from crushed limestone, marble, or crystalline silica, as well as any product that looks dusty.
  • Although trampolines may be fun, even the proper safety equipment does not fully prevent injuries in children, so the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend having a trampoline at your home.
  • If you have a tree house, inspect it regularly for damage and wear, including splinters and loose parts, and make sure the tree it stands in is sturdy as well. Keep the boards close together, install a safety gate at the top of the ladder, and attach non-slip materials on the rungs of the ladder.

When you first begin looking around your home and making a childproofing to-do list, it can feel overwhelming. But just relax, take it one step at a time, and look for tips like those listed above that can let you know about tasks that may otherwise slip your mind. For more child safety advice, health tips, and more, follow Children’s Wellness Center on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, and schedule your child’s next well child visit with us via our convenient patient portal.

Pool Safety Tips for Kids

May 9, 2017

Pool Safety Tips for KidsSwimming season is well on its way, and depending on water temperatures, you may have even taken a dip or two in the pool already. But regardless of how often your family plans to swim this summer, it’s important to know and follow some key pool safety measures. In fact, if you have a pool at your home, some of the information below should be on your mind all year round. At Children’s Wellness Center, we’re dedicated to the health and safety of all our pediatric patients, so here are some pool safety tips to keep your children safe this summer and in the years to come:

  • Any child in or near the water should always be supervised by an adult who can swim well and, ideally, who knows how to administer CPR for the children they’re supervising. Especially for children under the age of five, use “touch supervision”: an adult should always be within arm’s reach of the child. For children of any age, the adult with them should be responsible and undistracted. Use this as an opportunity to put away your phone or laptop and enjoy quality time with your children.
  • Be thinking about your child’s safety near any amount of water—never assume water is too shallow to pose a drowning risk. Sadly, even toilets and buckets of water can be dangerous for babies and children, so beyond staying on your toes near shallow “baby pools,” be sure to check out our blogs about childproofing your home, too.
  • Before signing up for swimming lessons for your child, consider some of this information from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
    1. While swimming lessons are recommended for children over four years of age to reduce the risk of drowning, there is no data to support that swimming lessons for babies less than one year old will reduce drowning risks. For toddlers between the ages of one and four, parents should use their discretion and determine whether their child’s emotional and physical development has reached a point when they’re ready for swimming lessons.
    2. Particularly for children less than four years old, make sure you choose a swimming class that adheres to the national YMCA guidelines.
    3. While swimming lessons (when appropriate) can provide an added line of defense, they are not 100% effective in preventing drowning, so even the most able swimmers should always be supervised in the pool.
  • Inflatable pools should be emptied and put away after each use.
  • Enforce detailed safety rules, including (but not limited to):
    1. No running near the pool.
    2. No pushing other children’s heads under water.
    3. No rough-housing in or near the pool.
    4. No bicycles or tricycles inside the pool’s enclosed fence.
  • Remember, children should always be wearing a life jacket when they’re in or near the water. Do not use wearable “floaties,” inner tubes, noodles, or other inflatable toys as substitutes.
  • Make sure the depth of each area of the pool is clearly marked, and point out the shallow end and the deep end to your child. Using the different depths responsibly should be part of your swimming pool safety
  • For both above-ground and in-ground swimming pools in your yard, you should have a fence around all four sides of the pool. The fence needs to be at least four feet tall, with a latch that works properly, opens away from the pool, and is out of reach of your child (the recommended height is at least 54 inches). If your house serves as the fourth wall of the fence, make sure all exits (including “doggie doors”) are properly secured. Keep any lawn furniture or other climbable items away from the fence as well, so children can’t climb on them to get over the fence.
  • If your pool has a cover, make sure it’s completely removed before you use the pool, and do not allow your child to walk on the cover or to go near it unsupervised.
  • Keep a first aid kit as well as one or more types of rescue equipment (like a lifesaver ring on a rope, or a shepherd’s hook) poolside at all times in the case of a swimming injury, and show your children how to use them. Be sure that this equipment is made of fiberglass or another strong, non-metal material so that it can be safely used during a storm if necessary.
  • Keep hot tubs and spas out of your child’s reach, and make sure your child knows that these items are off-limits.
  • Make sure any pool drains are compliant with the Pool and Spa Safety Act, and keep up with a consistent pool servicing schedule so they’re always in proper working order.
  • If at any time you cannot find your child, look in your pool or pond first.
  • Explain to your child that he or she should never dive into water without knowing that it is deep enough.
  • You, your children, and any adults supervising your children at the pool should all know what to do in the case of a drowning emergency. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics:
    1. Get the victim out of the water as quickly as possible, and determine if they are breathing on their own. If not, start administering CPR.
    2. Tell one of the other people present to call 911. If there is no one else around, CPR should be a higher priority than calling 911.
    3. If there is no one to call 911, continue CPR until the victim is breathing on their own, and then go to call 911. If someone else has been able to call for help, continue CPR until the victim is breathing on their own or until the paramedics arrive.
    4. Even if the victim seems fine after the incident, they need to have a medical exam to make sure they are truly okay.
  • While you should always be vigilant in supervising children while they swim, pay particularly close attention to children with developmental disabilities or seizure disorders, as they are at a higher risk than others.

There is plenty to think about in order to keep your child safe at the pool, but don’t let it scare you. As long as you’re prepared ahead of time and are supervising your children appropriately, swimming can be a great way for kids to have fun during the summer, stay cool, enjoy the outdoors, and get some exercise. For answers to your other questions about keeping your children healthy and safe this summer, contact us at Children’s Wellness Center and we’ll be happy to help. Or, to make sure your child is in tip-top shape before kicking off the summer festivities, schedule a well child visit on our convenient patient portal.

Frequently Asked Questions about Oral Health for Babies and Children

May 2, 2017

Frequently Asked Questions about Oral Health for Babies and ChildrenBeing a new parent can be overwhelming to say the least. There’s so much to think about in order to keep your child healthy and safe. Our pediatricians at Children’s Wellness Center are here to help you learn one step at a time. Even though dental hygiene is part of an adult’s daily routine, it’s easy to overlook or underestimate it when it comes to young children, and a child’s oral health has its own unique set of guidelines. To bring you up to speed, we’ve answered some of the most common questions parents ask about their children’s oral health.

At what age should I start brushing my child’s teeth?

There are varying recommendations about when you should start brushing your teeth, so when you visit one of our board-certified pediatricians for your baby’s early well-child visits, we can discuss your infant’s risk factors for tooth decay and help you determine when to start brushing his/her teeth gently. When it’s time, you should start by brushing your child’s teeth for them, then gradually having them take on more and more of the responsibility (while you supervise to correct any mistakes they might make). Kids are generally able to brush effectively on their own by around age 6, but every child matures at his or her own pace, so simply keep an eye on how well your child brushes in order to judge when he/she is ready to do it on his/her own.

What foods should my child avoid to reduce tooth decay?

Tooth decay happens when certain bacteria in the mouth convert sugar to an acid that degrades the teeth. So, put simply, offering healthy childhood nutrition by minimizing the amount of sugar in your children’s diet (even natural sugars) will lower their risk for childhood cavities. Be particularly cautious with sugary foods that tend to stick to the grooves in teeth, like raisins, gum, and caramel. On the flip side, try to also provide food and drinks that are high in tooth-healthy nutrients like calcium and vitamin D.

If “baby teeth” fall out anyway, does it really matter if they get cavities?

It’s a common misconception that the health of your child’s baby teeth isn’t important because they’re temporary, but the fact is that tooth decay in these teeth can have both long-term and short-term effects. It can impact the health of your child’s “adult teeth” and make him or her more likely to have more cavities later in life. But even in the short term, cavities can be painful for your child, and what begins as mild tooth decay can worsen and even cause a dangerous infection. By getting started with good dental hygiene early, you can give your child a head start to a life of healthier, more comfortable teeth.

Is fluoride safe for young children?

Fluoride, a chemical that many cities add to their drinking water, makes the teeth stronger and more resistant to decay. For young children and adults alike, it’s a healthy addition that can help to minimize dental problems. The only issue to keep an eye out for is fluorosis: a cosmetic condition that can develop in the “baby teeth” in children who are using too much fluoride. Fluorosis causes white or brown marks on your child’s teeth, and while it’s not dangerous, it’s a signal that you can cut down on the amount of fluoride your child is using.

When should I take my child to see a dentist?

For most of our patients, we recommend that children have their first dental visit when they’re three years of age. But our pediatricians will also evaluate your child’s teeth during their well child visits, and will let you know if your child should start going to a dentist earlier.

How do I know if my child has tooth decay?

Spotting early cavities can be challenging, especially on your child’s tiny teeth. During your regular well child exams at Children’s Wellness Center, we’ll examine your child’s teeth for any identifiable tooth decay.

What type of toothpaste and toothbrush should I use for my child?

Look for a toothbrush that is designed for your child’s age group (these usually have softer bristles and are small enough to fit a child’s mouth). As far as toothpaste goes, be sure to choose one that contains fluoride, and use small amounts based on your child’s age. For children under age three, only use a drop of toothpaste the size of a grain of rice. From age three until your child is able to properly rinse and spit, use a pea-sized amount. Once your child can rinse and spit, he/she can use a normal amount of toothpaste.

As small as a child’s teeth may be, they can have a strong impact on his or her health and comfort both today and for years to come, and as a parent, there is plenty you can do to keep your child healthy and happy. To discuss your child’s oral health in more detail, schedule an appointment using our online patient portal. Or, for more health and safety tips as well as the latest news in pediatrics, follow Children’s Wellness Center on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.