Pediatricians Recast Screen Time Recommendations & Give Parents Online Planning Tools

Thanks to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), parents and teachers now have two simple and easy-to-use tools that can assist with developing a family’s media plan and estimating how family members can organize their time so that screen time is balanced with physical activity, reading, face-to-face connections, and homework.

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A screen shot of the two new media tools.

Every school administrator and every PTA group will want to  share the information about these digital planning devices in as many ways as possible. The new tools are available at the AAP’s HealthyChildren.org website.

The Academy has also refreshed its screen time recommendations for children of all ages, making needed updates to reflect the changing digital landscape as well as the many media activities in the lives of family members. Whether you agreed or vehemently disagreed with previous AAP screen and media guidelines, the professional society of children’s physicians deserves high praise for its ongoing efforts to address a media and digital landscape that dramatically affects the health and wellness of young people.

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Babies: The Real World or a Tablet Screen?

silo

The silo!

A baby carrier with an iPad holder?

Don’t babies need to be looking around and figuring out things about all the people and things around them? You know, mommy, daddy, toy, cat, dog, book, noise, quiet. I watched my daughter observing and responding to the differences in colors, light, contrasts, and people — real people — practically from the day she was born. Babies may not be able to talk or even move for a long time after birth, but they can watch real life —  and they work hard and learn a lot while they do all of that looking.

Seriously, do parents want a baby to stop figuring out and organizing the real world just to look at a screen — even for a short time?

Downstairs in my basement is an old-fashioned and wonderful Fisher-Price plastic barn and silo filled with people and animals. Two generations of babies and toddlers loved those toys, and now they’re waiting down there in a corner somewhere for the next child. The silo provided hours of interest for our daughter. Once she could sit up she started watching this bright read object. Inside were safe plastic animal toys for when she was learning to grab — but mostly she would knock the silo over or bang on it.

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The Media Is the Message for Our Children

Listen to a Los Angles CBS video about the story.

Listen to a Los Angles CBS video about the controversy and read the story.

In light of the extraordinary negative media messages about body image  in children’s lives, ensuring the strength and confidence of preadolescents and teens is a continuing challenge for parents and teachers. So much of the advertising markets thinness, popularity, sexuality, and one type of attractiveness, so it can be difficult for adults to counteract the effect of the of this pressure on a child.

Sometimes the entire ethos of a company emphasizes values that we do not want children in our care to adopt.

A distressing article over at the Huffington Post, A Message to Abercrombie’s CEO from a Former Fat Girl by Sara Taney Humphreys, highlights how one company has made exclusion, intentionally or otherwise, a part of its mission. Humpheys’ article isn’t about something that happened recently, but rather a quote from a 2006 Salon article about the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch. While  the article is more than six years old, the comments are disturbing, especially given the number of children who like to shop at Abercrombie and the many others who struggle with body image. Below is a quote from the Salon article.

As far as Jeffries is concerned, America’s unattractive, overweight or otherwise undesirable teens can shop elsewhere. “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he says. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”

You can also listen to this ABC Chicago television story (after an airlines advertisement), including interviews with teenagers — many of whom can fit into the Abercrombie clothes but choose not to buy them. The teens are demonstrating at one of the stores in Chicago.

You might also want to look over the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) statement on media and children.

9 Suggestions to Help Families Think About Digital Device Moderation

Designed using images from the Apple website.

Designed using images from the Apple website.

I love my iPhone and iPad, and I cannot do many things without them. For children under 13, however, use time should be carefully monitored by each family. Kids today are playing independently with powerful devices, and they — the devices and the children — are not intended to interact in isolation and for long periods without adult supervision.

An article that provides food for thought, Your Phone Verses Your Heart, appeared in the March 23, 2013 New York Times. Also, check out the American Academy of Pediatrics media resources — the pediatricians are making recommendations because they know what they are talking about.

Just today I asked a group of device-savvy fifth graders, most around age 10, if they know anything about SnapChat, the app that deletes pictures in one to ten seconds (leaving plenty of time for a recipient with poor judgement to take a screen shot and save the photo). Just about every hand went up. During a lesson a few months ago I asked them how many of them know how to make a screenshot — and they can all do it in a lot less than ten seconds. Read my SnapChat review here.

A Few Social Media Supervision Suggestions            Continue reading

Advertising With Kids as Targets

For several months I’ve been carrying around a New York Times article, How Advertising Targets Our Children, from the February 11, 2013 edition. Written by pediatrician Perri Klass the Well Blog post points out that recently published research links, even more strongly, the exposure of alcohol advertising to a child’s movement toward unhealthy behaviors.

Health Children Media Ed

Check out the Media Resources at HealthyChildren.org.

Dr. Klass writes about Exposure to Alcohol Advertisements and Teenage Alcohol-Related Problems (abstract), a Pediatrics article describing new research that finds a stronger association between unhealthy behaviors and the amount of advertising in the lives of children and adolescents. The researchers followed nearly 4,000 children in grades seven through ten.

Read the full text of the Pediatrics article.

In her article Klass quotes the researchers, experts from the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy, and pediatrics professors from the Children’s Hospital at Stanford University who have studied the links between childhood obesity and screen time.

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8 Tips to Help Parents Raise Stronger 21st Century Learners

As we approach the end of 2012 and the holiday season that will surely introduce new gadgets and devices into many of our households, it’s a good time to reassess family digital expectations.

Learning in the 21st Century requires that children competently use digital resources much of the time. To do this each student needs plenty of experience making choices, understanding limits, and mastering the art of filtering out what is immaterial at any given point. Children who get this guidance at home and at school are the most prepared to become effective learners.

These eight tips aim to help parents of digital kids to get started. If you teach, consider sharing them with your students’ parents.

1. Place computers and tablet devices in central, well-traveled locations — away from bedrooms and private spaces.

2. Make adults, not children, the administrators on all computers, including laptops until you are certain of each child’s decision-making.

3. Print and post rules and expectations. Specify the times when you do not want your children using computers. Emphasize that your family rules are in effect when your child goes to a friend’s house.

4. Help your children to come up with a strategy that helps them to distance themselves whenever and wherever inappropriate digital activities occur.

5. If your children have mobile phones, have you discussed appropriate use, texting, and limits on a phone’s digital camera? Download a PDF of my cell phone contract.                       Continue reading

iPad Crazed Kids? OK, but Are They Also Learning How to Play With Others?

I’ve just read a November 28, 2011 Bloomberg article, iPad Crazed Toddlers Spur Holiday Sales. OK, the title is a bit overly dramatic, but it’s an interesting read, describing the demand for tablets of all kinds and kids’ motivation to use them.

Seriously, though, the tone of the article makes me worry a bit. As a confirmed techie, gadget lover, educational technology specialist, teacher, and parent, I know that children also need lots of outside play time and plenty of experiences working/playing with others. We don’t know what the jobs will be in 15 years when these kids are looking for employment, but we do know that their superior technology skills will matter little if they don’t have great people skills — understanding how to share, take turns, and work collaboratively.

The article reminds parents about the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations about no screen time (or very little of it) for children under two years of age. And please — this is a plea from me — avoid, as much as possible, using these digital devices as electronic pacifiers, the term used in the article by Victoria Nash of the Oxford Internet Institute (England).

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