Managing Screen Time During COVID-19

As a result of COVID-19, the use of electronic devices for learning, connecting, and recreating has increased greatly. With this increase, families may be concerned about how much screen time is too much screen time for their children. Keep it simple. Remember, screen time management during COVID-19 is more about quality and less about quantity.

As we navigate our new normal, guidelines exist to offer direction for all aspects of our lives, including recommendations for screen time management. These parameters highlight the importance of quality over quantity. Screens can be used for nearly every daily task, and the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified that use. We are faced with a new reality where most of what we do, and what our children do, involves some kind of screen time.

Consider how much of what you do involves screen time now versus before the pandemic. You are able to purchase necessary items, like food, cleaning supplies, and clothing, online; communicate with friends and family through video chats; and attend a virtual tele-health visit with medical providers. While screen time use was expected to increase and has escalated during the pandemic, it is the way in which screen time is used that matters the most. For children, low-quality screen time or recreational screen time should still be limited. Below are some tips to help ensure quality screen time use even though the quantity has increased.

Quality versus Quantity tips during COVID-19 

Not all screen time use is equal.

Quality screen time includes video calling to connect with friends and family. If the screen time is spent doing activities that would have been done in person before COVID-19, then the activity does not count as recreational screen time. Playing video games without educational content is an example of recreational screen time with low quality.

Incorporate physical activity.

Engaging in physical activity is very important and can be incorporated into quality screen time through the use of specific apps. Many apps are free and available for children to use to increase their activity levels.

Create personal space.

Use screen time to create personal space in your home. You may have taken on the roles of school teacher, child care worker, full-time employee, and homemaker – at the same time. Let your child watch a favorite movie if you are busy with work or other activities in which your child cannot participate. Just remember to aim for 2 hours or less a day of low-quality recreational screen time.

Plan ahead.

Find apps, games, and videos that your child can safely do by himself or herself. Add these to your daily routine. Think of educational screen time as a new platform for learning.

Safety first.

Manage your children’s safety settings and parental permissions. Keep all devices centrally located to keep track of use. Have children return devices to the central location after they are finished with their activity.

Develop a family media plan.

Create a family media plan to ensure quality over quantity. Visit HealthyChildren.org to create a customized online family media plan (Spanish option available).

 

Additional Resources: 

Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness at Penn State. (2020). Tips for working at home with kidshttps://thrive.psu.edu/blog/tips-for-working-at-home-with-kids/

Unicef Kid Power. (2020). Best apps for keeping kids active. https://www.unicefkidpower.org/best-apps-for-keeping-kids-active/

 

References: 

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2020, April 20). Parenting during the Covid-19 Pandemic: Advice from psychologists on the best ways to cope with the new way of life—and the new stressors—caused by the global health crisis. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/topics/covid-19/parenting-during-pandemic

Nagata, J., Abdel Magid, H., & Gabriel, K. (Accepted/In Press). Screen time for children and adolescents during the COVID‐19 pandemic. Obesity. https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.22917

Too much screen time?

Having the use of screens, computers, smartphones, and tablets, just to name a few, has given individuals the ability to be anywhere at any moment and allowed people to live in a global community. Video chatting, social networks, and the internet have changed the way we interact with each other and the way children learn. Technology is commonplace in educational settings and sometimes even necessary for learning and homework completion. Despite the need for children to be competent technology users in order to learn, there can be health risks and impeded learning as a result of screen overuse, specifically when screens are used for recreational purposes.

Excessive screen time has been associated with a variety of concerns for children, such as obesity, mood swings, and aggressive behavior, and has been found to negatively impact attention span and language and cognitive development (Carson & Janssen, 2012). Children ages 4 to 6 years old who spent more time on screen-based activities showed lower emotional understanding ability (Skalická, Wold Hygen, Stenseng, Kårstad, & Wichstrøm, 2019) and an increased risk of expressive speech delay (Livingstone & Franklin, 2018) because they lacked face-to-face interaction. One component of screen time is artificial light. Over exposure to light, especially artificial light from screens, can have a great effect on circadian rhythm, which is a normal, biological process that regulates one’s sleep-wake cycles. Moreover, artificial light, such as from self-luminous tablets, can cause significant melatonin suppression (i.e., melatonin is a hormone that signals the body that it is time for sleep) after only 2 hours of use (Hale & Guan, 2015).  Please find below additional negative effects that can result from too much recreational screen time (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2016; American Health Institute, 2019).

  • Irregular sleep schedules and shorter duration of sleep
  • Behavioral problems
  • Loss of social skills
  • Violence
  • Less time for play

So, what can parents can do to ensure age-appropriate screen time behaviors?

  1. Avoid screen exposure for children younger than 18 months.
  2. Watch high-quality television programming with your children so you can help interpret the content.
  3. Limit recreational screen time to no more than 2 hours per day.
  4. Create healthy relationships with screens as a family – be good digital role models.

 

References

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2016). American Academy of Pediatrics announces new recommendations for children’s media use. Retrieved from https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Announces-New-Recommendations-for-Childrens-Media-Use.aspx

American Health Institute. (2019). Screen time and children. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000355.htm

Carson, V., & Janssen, I. (2012). Associations between factors within the home setting and screen time among children aged 0-5 years: A cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health, 12(1), 1.

Hale, L., & Guan, S. (2015). Screen time and sleep among school-aged children and adolescents: A systematic literature review. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 21(2015), 50–58.

Livingstone, S., & Franklin, K. (2018). Families with young children and ‘screen time’ advice. Journal of Health Visiting, 6(9), 434–439.

Skalická, V., Wold Hygen, B., Stenseng, F., Kårstad, S. B., & Wichstrøm, L. (2019). Screen time and the development of emotion understanding from age 4 to age 8: A community study. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 1–17.

Fruits and Vegetables Month

Food can be fun! Colorful fruits and vegetables are a great way to add brightness to your plate and entice your taste buds. You can find a variety of fresh produce at local farmers’ markets. Visiting your local farmers’ markets can be an exciting family outing! You can gather fresh ingredients and colorful fruits and vegetables, and, best of all, it’s something you can do together.

Get your kids involved! Your children may want to help make decisions about what goes on their plates. While in the produce section at the grocery store, help them explore the different fruits and vegetable options. A fun activity could be to pick produce that creates all the colors in the rainbow!

Not only can fruits and vegetables add color and create fun family activities, but they offer many health benefits including lowering cardiovascular disease risk (Bondonno, Bondonno, Ward, Hodgson, & Croft, 2017; Lassale et al., 2016), protecting the body against oxidative stress (Brookie, Best, & Conner, 2018), decreasing mental health disorders (Brookie et al., 2018), promoting nutrient absorption, and acting as anti-obesity agents (Pem & Jeewon, 2015).

As autumn approaches, here are some seasonal favorites you may like to try at home!

Research indicates that eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day will provide the greatest health benefits.

Do your part, live a longer life, and establish healthy life-long habits for your kids!

 

References

Bondonno, N. P., Bondonno, C. P., Ward, N. C., Hodgson, J. M., & Croft, K. D. (2017). The cardiovascular health benefits of apples: Whole fruit vs. isolated compounds. Trends in Food Science and Technology, 69, 243–256. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tifs.2017.04.012

Brookie, K. L., Best, G. I., & Conner, T. S. (2018). Intake of raw fruits and vegetables is associated with better mental health than intake of processed fruits and vegetables. Frontiers in Psychology, 9(APR), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00487

Lassale, C., Castetbon, K., Laporte, F., Deschamps, V., Vernay, M., Camilleri, G. M., … Kesse-Guyot, E. (2016). Correlations between fruit, vegetables, fish, vitamins, and fatty acids estimated by web-based nonconsecutive dietary records and respective biomarkers of nutritional status. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(3), 427-438.e5. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2015.09.017

Pem, D., & Jeewon, R. (2015). Fruit and vegetable intake: Benefits and progress of nutrition education interventions- Narrative review article. Iranian Journal of Public Health, 44(10), 1309–1321.

 

Effects of Social Media Use on Teenagers

Teenagers on media devicesThe adolescent stage of development can be defined by change or transformation. As early as age 11, parents may start to notice physical, developmental, emotional, and social changes in their pre-teen. Emotional ups and downs, a push for independence, new friend groups, and academic pressures are common experiences among adolescents. In today’s technological world, an adolescents’ perpetual  access to social media impacts their lives in positive and negative ways, and research is proceeding to determine how youth are being impacted.

In the world of research, studying the effects of social media use on adolescents is relatively new.  Brain development, mental health concerns, social issues, and other factors are areas of interest for future research.

One possible benefit of social media is connecting people to each other. For young people, friends and feeling they fit in with others of a similar age and interests are high priorities, and social media allows people to connect any time anywhere. Teens who may struggle in face-to-face situations and interactions, or who are from a marginalized group, may find comfort in communicating through social media outlets. Adolescents can enjoy sharing a common hobby or special ability with a specialized social media group.

Research also shows concerning effects of social media use on young people. The amount of time adolescents spend on social media is something parents should monitor. The act of sitting and scrolling through media can significantly impact the amount of physical activity or face-to-face conversation in which a teen engages. In addition, the content young people are viewing on social media (e.g., violence, cyberbullying) and how it is internalized (e.g., treatment of others, self-worth) can be troublesome.

There are times in face-to-face interactions when adolescents often find it difficult to manage rejection or negative interactions. This same phenomenon happens with social media and can create distress for young people. Youth may experience negative interactions on social media, for example a post may not be “liked” enough, there may be a lapse in response times, or they may be involved in sexting or cyberbullying. These negative interactions can impact adolescent mental health. Loss of sleep, feelings of hopelessness, negative thoughts, and friendship challenges are some of the negative outcomes associated with youth social media use.

Parents and caregivers are role models for social media use and are in a position to set rules and guidelines to help support young people as they navigate the world of social media. Review the resources below for more information and guidance about how to have conversations with your teens about social media use. Start the conversation today; it’s an important one!

Resources for parents:

https://childmind.org/article/how-using-social-media-affects-teenagers/

https://www.healthychildren.org/english/media/pages/default.aspx

http://www.shapethesky.org/

https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/news-features-and-safety-tips/Pages/Talking-to-Kids-and-Teens-About-Social-Media-and-Sexting.aspx

Healthy 5210 Lunches for Back-to-School

Back-to-school means adding that extra step of preparing lunches for the school day. Remember the daily dose of at least 5 fruits and vegetables and 0 sweetened beverages when packing school lunches, and try to include a variety of healthy options.

If your kids are picky eaters, try these ideas to help kids eat healthy:

  • Get kids involved and have them help make and pack lunch foods.
  • Use cookie cutters to make fun shapes out of foods like sandwiches, deli meat, and cheeses.
  • Use wraps and fill them with tuna, chicken, or even veggies to make fun roll-ups.
  • Include fruit, like strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries and granola or bran flakes to sprinkle on top of yogurt.
  • Pack individualized items for kids to make their own meals, for example taco fillers, veggie tortilla pizzas, chips and bean salsa, and cracker stackers.
  • Include low-fat dips, like hummus, for vegetables.

If your mornings are rushed, try these ideas to save time:

  • Use dinner leftovers!
  • Pack the night before to save time in the morning.
  • Buy fruits that don’t require manipulation, like bananas, apples, pears, and oranges.
  • Pre-make and cut foods, like hard boiled eggs, carrots, celery, broccoli, cucumbers, cauliflower, and tomatoes for easy grab and go options.
  • Make stackable foods in containers for the next day – or even the week – for example, salads and yogurt parfaits.

 

Additional Resources:

Back-to-School Healthy Lunch Ideas: http://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/back-to-school-healthy-lunch-ideas—by-devin-alexander

How to Manage a Healthy Child’s Sleep During Summer Vacation

With summer vacation around the corner, it is important to think about one thing kids love about summertime – sleeping in! Maintaining a consistent sleep routine in the summer can be difficult. After a whole school year of early alarms and rushing out the door, it is tempting to stay up late at night and wake up later in the morning. But, children need adequate sleep regardless of the time of year!

Even though it’s summer, when possible, children should go to sleep at approximately the same time and wake up at approximately the same time every day.

  • Enforce a consistent sleep schedule that allows for a sufficient amount of sleep. This may mean your child has to go to bed when the sun is still up. If your child is having difficulty falling asleep in summer because there is sunlight so late into the evening, consider investing in blackout curtains or shades for his or her bedroom to create a restful space. For young children, remind them that bedtime is approaching even though it may still be light out.
  • Create a restful sleeping environment. Make sure your child has a cool, quiet, dark, and comfortable sleep environment. Put away electronics at least 30 minutes before bedtime, and remove all electronics from the bedroom.

Lights can go out at different times for different children in the family depending on how much sleep they need.

  • For adolescents and teens, the summer sleep schedule may be less regimented than for younger children. Allowing your teen to sleep in is okay but within reason. While this extra sleep can be beneficial, it may also result in a shifted or delayed schedule with teens going to bed later than usual and sleeping later than usual.  This can be problematic when school starts and your teen has to go to bed early and rise early. Try to keep weekend wake-ups within an hour or so of their usual time.
  • If your child is going to bed later but still getting up early in the morning, then your child may be getting less sleep. As during the school year, this can interfere with all aspects of a child’s functioning, including growth, development, mood, and performance.

When the summer is nearing its end, start to plan ahead for the return of those early morning alarms by adjusting your child’s wake-up time gradually. Two to three weeks before school starts, begin shifting your child’s sleep schedule by setting a bedtime and wake time that allows for enough sleep, and then move the bedtime and wake time 15 minutes earlier every few nights until the desired sleep schedule is reached.

References:
American Academy of Pediatrics (2017). Healthy sleep habits: How many hours does your child need? Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/sleep/Pages/Healthy-Sleep-Habits-How-Many-Hours-Does-Your-Child-Need.aspx

Beebe, D. W. (2011). Cognitive, behavioral, and functional consequences of inadequate sleep in children and adolescents. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 58(3), 649–665.

Paruthi S., Brooks L. J., D’Ambrosio C., Hall, W. A., Kotagall, S., Lloyd, R. M. … Wise, M. S.  (2016). Recommended amount of sleep for pediatric populations: A consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 12(6), 785-786.

Related 5210 Resources:
5210 and Healthy Sleep

What Parents Need to Know about Vaping and JUULing

What is vaping and JUULing?

Vaping, also known as JUULing, is becoming more popular with youth in middle school and high school. Vaping means using an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) or other vaping device. It is referred to as vaping because tiny puffs or clouds of vapor are produced when using the devices. E-cigarettes are battery powered and deliver nicotine through a liquid (called e-juice), which turns into a vapor when using the devices. The liquid comes in flavors, such as mint, fruit, and bubble gum, which appeal to kids. Youth often believe that the liquid used in vaping only contains water and flavoring and are unaware that it contains nicotine. Therefore, they may think vaping is less dangerous than using other tobacco products, such as cigarettes. The amount of nicotine in the liquid can be the same or even more than the amount found in cigarettes.

Many types of e-cigarettes are available, but one popular brand is JUUL. JUUL is becoming more prevalent with youth in middle and high school because of its small size, and it looks like a USB device. When using a JUUL it is often referred to as JUULing.

Vaping and JUULing are not safe for kids.

Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, and no amount of nicotine is safe. Nicotine is very addictive and can harm children and teens’ developing brains. Using nicotine can cause problems with learning and attention and can lead to addiction. Even being around others who use e-cigarettes and breathing the cloud they exhale can expose youth to nicotine and chemicals that can be dangerous to their health. Studies have also shown that kids who vape are more likely to use cigarettes or other tobacco products later in life.

What can parents do?

It is important to talk with kids about the dangers of vaping. Youth see e-cigarette advertisements from many sources, including retail stores, the internet, TV, movies, magazines, and newspapers. They can also see posts or photos about vaping on social media. Parents should monitor screen time use and talk to their youth about what they may have seen or heard about vaping. Parents can also be role models and set a positive example by being tobacco free.

Resources for Parents:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Office on Smoking and Health. (n.d.) Talk with Your Teen About E-cigarettes: A Tip Sheet for Parents. Retrieved from
https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/documents/SGR_ECig_ParentTipSheet_508.pdf

CATCH My Breath Program. (n.d.) Parent Resources. Retrieved from https://catch.org/lessons/catch-my-breath-middle-school-parent-resources

Additional References:

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2018) Youth Tobacco Use: Results from the 2016 National Youth Tobacco Survey. Retrieved from
https://www.fda.gov/TobaccoProducts/PublicHealthEducation/ProtectingKidsfromTobacco/ucm405173.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017) E-cigarette Ads and Youth. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/ecigarette-ads/index.html

Growing Up Digital – Managing Children’s Screen Time

With the rapid growth of technology, parents may find it challenging to manage or limit their children’s screen time. Screen time is free time spent sitting or reclining in front of televisions, computers, tables, and similar screens. Too much screen time is linked to behavioral problems, obesity, irregular sleep, impaired academic functioning, aggression, and less time for structured play. Parents should manage and set limits around screen time and become involved in children’s screen-time use – just as you monitor and engage in other activities. Here are a few tips on how to manage and put limits on screen time.

  • Keep Track of Screen Time. Make a daily log of the amount of time your child spends on screens and the types of content he or she is viewing. The quality of the content is just as important as the amount of time spent using screens.
  • Set Limits. When it comes to setting limits, you want the limits to be reasonable and attainable. You also want to set limits that are developmentally appropriate for your child. Develop a plan with your family to limit screen time, and discuss the reasons why it is important to set limits.
  • Be a Role Model. Try to limit the amount of recreational time you spend on your devices. During the periods when you allow your child to use screens, become more involved by co-viewing, such as playing apps together or watching a television show together. Talking with your child about what you are viewing can help facilitate learning.
  • Create Screen-Free Zones. Consider designating certain times of the day as screen-free, such as when completing homework (that is not on a computer), during dinner, a few hours before bedtime, or during family time. You can also designate certain areas of your home as screen free, such as bedrooms.
  • Kids Will Make Mistakes. Limiting recreational screen time could be challenging for your child especially if he or she has not had any prior limits set. Most importantly, be consistent and reasonable. Set realistic expectations and, if your child makes a mistake, help guide him or her back on track.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has created a resource you can use to develop a Family Media Plan: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/media/Pages/default.aspx


Additional Resources:
Screen Time and the Very Young
https://5210.psu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/screentimeandveryyoung7-11-17.pdf

Television Tunnel Vision
https://5210.psu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/televisiontunnelvision7-11-17.pdf


References:
Reid Chassiakos, Y., Radesky, J., Christakis D., Moreno, M. A., Cross, C. (2016). AAP Council on Communications and Media. Children and Adolescents and Digital Media. Pediatrics, 138(5), e20162593

Gingold, J. A., Simon, A. E., & Schoendorf, K. C. (2014). Excess screen time in US children: Association with family rules and alternative activities. Clinical Pediatrics, 53(1), 41-50.