May 23, 2017 9:36 am
These 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+.
May 2, 2017 12:41 am
Being 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+.
March 31, 2017 3:30 pm
Spring break has arrived, and as hectic as life can be as you prepare for a vacation, a getaway with your children offers valuable quality time and lets you build lifelong memories for your family. But in the midst of all the spring break fun, helping your kids stay safe is a top priority for all of us at Children’s Wellness Center (CWC). With that goal in mind, here are some essential safety tips for any activity you’re enjoying throughout your spring break:
On the Road:
- If you’re flying to your destination and renting a vehicle, plan ahead to have the type of car safety seat you need. Car rental companies typically have car safety seats available for you to use, but if you’re concerned about having a seat that will fit your child properly, it may be a good idea to bring your own.
- On long drives, make stops about every two hours to let both yourself and your child take a break and stretch.
- Particularly if you’re flying, wash your child’s hands frequently and consider bringing cleansing wipes as well for a more convenient option. Travel tends to bring you into contact with a lot of bacteria, and being vigilant may help your child avoid a pediatric illness.
- Never leave your child alone in the car, regardless of whether the doors are locked, how long you plan to be away, or how hot or cool it may be outside.
In the Sun:
- For infants under 6 months of age, avoid direct sunlight. Keep them in the shade, and if necessary, you can apply a very small amount of sunscreen on exposed skin.
- For all children, don’t rely on sunscreen alone to protect them from sun damage. Dress them in light yet tightly-woven fabric (such as cotton), ideally with long sleeves, as well as a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses for eye protection.
- Any time you’re using a new sunscreen, do a “spot test”: apply sunscreen to a small area of skin to make sure your child doesn’t have an allergic reaction. We also recommend looking for hypoallergenic sunscreens, such as those offered by Neutrogena and Aveeno.
- When you’re looking for a sunscreen, make sure you select one that is “broad-spectrum” (meaning that it blocks both UVA and UVB rays) with an SPF of 30 or higher. Preferably, select one that is waterproof as well, but regardless, be sure to reapply every 1.5-2 hours.
- Sunscreen needs time on the skin before it becomes effective, so apply it 30 minutes before your child goes outside.
At the Beach:
- When you arrive at the beach, take stock of the area. Look for any signs or flags that indicate water conditions, and make sure that you know where the lifeguard is, where the designated swimming area is, and where there may be underwater rocks or other hazards. If possible, keep your child near the lifeguard while they’re swimming.
- Teach your children about rip currents, and show them how to swim parallel to the shore if they find themselves in a rip current.
- If you see lightening or if there are reports of lightening in the area, leave the beach immediately.
- Use “touch supervision” – stay within arm’s reach of your child any time they are in or near the water.
At the Pool:
- Never allow your child to swim alone. Even if he/she is a skilled swimmer, unforeseen accidents can always happen to cause pediatric injuries.
- Make sure your child uses a US Coast Guard-approved life jacket that fits properly. Do not rely on “floaties” (such as the popular inflatable arm bands) to keep your child safe. While they can help, they are not strong enough to prevent drowning, so they are not a substitute for proper supervision.
- Make sure your child knows never to dive into water unless it is specifically permitted and an adult has verified the water depth and checked for underwater dangers.
In the Heat:
- When it’s hot and/or humid outside, limit the amount of time your children spend on strenuous activities.
- Make sure your child always has water available when they need it and that they are consistently drinking enough water.
- If you’re in a warmer climate than your children are used to, ease them into outdoor activities. Keep their outdoor active time to a minimum for the first day and gradually increase it.
- Spend as little time as possible outside between 10am and 2pm, because these are the hours during which the sun is particularly strong and the weather is at its hottest.
You’ve probably been looking forward to spring break for months, and by all means, you should make the most of your time with your kids. But you can have a fantastic week while also keeping your family safe, and at Children’s Wellness Center, we’re here to help. For more health and safety tips for your child, explore our website or schedule a pediatric appointment through our patient portal. Plus, for daily updates and health news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
July 27, 2016 10:07 am
If we lived in a world where insect bites and stings didn’t exist, imagine how much more enjoyable spending time outdoors would be for everyone! Unfortunately, this is not a luxury we are given and insects can damper summer fun for a lot of folks. Insect repellents tend to be the first defense many of us choose to protect the body from pesky mosquitoes eagerly waiting to have a field day on any exposed parts of the skin. While repellents certainly can be helpful, there are certain ingredients used to ward off mosquitoes that you should pay particular attention to – insect repellents that contain DEET. If you’re curious to know how safe using insect repellents with DEET is on kids, the Children’s Wellness Center pediatricians have put together our recommendations and precautions to take when buying an insect repellent for your family.
DEET (which goes by the chemical name N, N-diethyl-tolumide) is the active ingredient used in insect repellents. Applied to the skin externally, DEET helps keep mosquitoes away rather than killing them and can come in a wide selection of concentrations (depending on the kind of insect repellent you buy). The higher the concentration of DEET, the longer you’ll be protected from mosquitos, which may sound ideal, but too much DEET can be harmful. The goal is to stick between 10%-30% DEET (do not use anything over 30% DEET concentration on kids) because the chemical can be extremely toxic.
Low concentrations of DEET, like repellents with 10% DEET, are recommended for use on kids who plan to be outside for just a few, short hours of fun in the sun while insect repellents with 30% DEET concentration would be more ideal for an all-day, outdoor adventure. DEET is directly absorbed into the skin and while high DEET concentrations may carry the stigma that they’ll work the best for intended purposes, repellents with more than 30% have been shown to not work any better than lower concentrated DEET repellents. It’s similar to the idea that sunscreens that have an SPF of 100 must work better to protect us than one with an SPF of 45 because the number is greater (but we now know that’s not always the case either).
Once you’ve made your purchase, properly applying an insect repellent to your child’s skin is just as important. Our most noteworthy suggestions include:
- Never use insect repellents containing DEET on children under the age of 2 months.
- Don’t apply repellents more than once a day. This isn’t the same rule where once you get into water or sweat a lot you must reapply like you do with sunscreens to avoid the dreaded sunburn.
- Avoid applying insect repellent to your child’s face, mouth, and hands. They are more likely to accidentally ingest the repellent chemicals or experience some sort of irritation after being exposed to the repellent then touching their face or putting their hands in their mouths.
- Always make sure you’re applying the insect repellent in a well-ventilated area to reduce your child’s chance of inhaling the chemicals.
- When your child is in for the day and not planning on being outside for prolonged periods, be sure to thoroughly wash their skin with soap and water to remove any residual chemicals.
- Don’t forget to also wash their clothes, especially before wearing again, in case any DEET lingers and finds its way back onto your child’s skin.
It’s important to check the active ingredients listed on a specific insect repellent to see what chemicals you’ll be exposing yourself and your child’s skin to. Be sure to always read and closely follow the product’s instructions to ensure proper usage and most importantly safety. Many insect repellents have been heavily tested and we recommend doing a bit of research to see which ones do its job most effectively without compromising your child’s health. If you’re traveling with the family, it’s a good idea to also remember to pack your own repellents, especially if going international. Other parts of the world may not actively test products to the extent we do here, language differences could cause application errors, or perhaps the DEET concentration is higher than we would advise using. Either way, KidsHealth®, the FDA, and the American Academy of Pediatrics offer helpful guides for choosing the right insect repellent for your child – there are many out there, you just have to find the one that keep your child covered when they need it the most. We want everyone to have a safe, enjoyable, and bite-free summer!