Featured Local Business

Most Read: Wellness

Chatting About Online Safety

Nowadays kids of all ages are connecting with friends and fa... Read more

Why Yoga is Good for Kids

Little Cecilia Kocan, age 5, sat perfectly still, meditating... Read more

The Dirt on Dirt

“Don’t track mud in the house!” “Wash your hands before din... Read more

Zits for Grown-Ups

Cafeteria cliques may be a distant memory, but if you’re sti... Read more

Nuts About Nuts

Holiday vacation time is approaching, and I already feel lik... Read more

Family + Sports = Fun

Fitness starts early—from a child’s first steps! When Mom an... Read more

Make Sleep a Priority

  Parents often use bedtime stories and other peaceful... Read more

Concerned about Fever?

One the most common reasons I see a child in my office is fo... Read more

Bringing Home Baby

As a parent-to-be, you are probably feeling overwhelmed as y... Read more

Walking the Middle Path

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a relatively new appro... Read more

To Cell or Not to Cell

My husband and I were sitting on the couch chatting one nigh... Read more

Girls Fighting Fire

While going on nature hikes, singing songs, and roasting s&r... Read more

Eat Your Veggies!

Summer’s bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables offers a... Read more

Good-for-You Recipes

When I was little, my parents didn’t dress up my vegetables ... Read more

Let's Move

Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in Amer... Read more

Mild Concussions

Recently I had the opportunity to listen to Dave Baron, DO, ... Read more

Fitting in Fitness

When was the last time you played with your children—really ... Read more

Plan a Summer Cookout

Some of my favorite summer memories were times when my dad b... Read more

Water Safety Skills

Drowning is one of the leading causes of death in the United... Read more

Planning for Summer

This is the time of year that families think about the end o... Read more

2018 Dec

Unplug Your Kids

Parents need to set limits for their children to encourage better habits and better health.

As I sat in a restaurant waiting on my order, I looked around. Nearly every table had a kid that was “plugged in” to some device. I started thinking about what this means in terms of child health as I see this happening not only in restaurants, but in cars, in stores, and even in my office.       

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to technology (as I sit here on a computer). I just want you as a parent to feel comfortable in setting limits for your children to encourage a healthy balance in their daily schedule.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), childhood obesity affects 13.7 million children between the ages of 2 and 19 years. That means that more than 18 percent of American children are obese. Our children need to put down those devices to move and play.

Screen time is affecting weight in children. Screen time is defined as time spent in front of any type of screen. This includes television, video games, computers, phones, and even educational screen devices.

I often hear parents complain that their kids are having difficulty going to sleep at night. When I have a patient with sleep issues, I generally learn that there is a screen of some type in the bedroom. The blue light from screens can interfere with the body’s ability to feel drowsy.                  

My first recommendation is to remove all screens from the bedroom, including the phone. At my home, phones are left on the kitchen counter to charge overnight. This eliminates an urge to check the phone during the night.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has set up a list of recommendations on media use. These recommendations encourage young minds to utilize media for fun and learning while incorporating a balanced approach to life including friends, exercise and healthy sleep patterns. Parents are curious about just how much screen time they should allow.

According to the AAP, children younger than 18 months old should have no screen time other than video-chatting with relatives or friends (grandparents cannot be denied this joy). Children from 18 to 24 months should be allowed ONLY high-quality children’s programming that is age appropriate and incorporates learning. Even so, you should watch the program with them and then discuss it to assist their understanding. Parental involvement is key.

From two to five years of age, children should be allowed no more than one hour of screen time daily of high-quality, educational programming. Children over six years of age should limit screen time to less than two hours per day. Continue to supervise your child’s screen time even in the teen years.

Children need their parents’ help to balance their sleep schedule. Children ages 3-5 years need 10 to 13 hours, ages 6 to 12 years need 9 to 12 hours, teens need 8 to 10 hours. Children also need 1 hour daily of healthy exercise. Setting limits on screen time helps children to find balance in their daily schedule allowing for socialization and discussion.

Besides setting limits on screen time, parents may also wish to designate device-free times and places. At my home the dinner table is a device-free zone. Bedrooms should be device-free as well to encourage healthy sleep. Car rides are a wonderful time to really connect one-on-one with your children. Perhaps limiting screen time in the car will give way to some wonderful discussion.

Feel free to set appropriate limits on screen time, just as you would on other treats. We don’t let our kids eat an entire box of cookies, so why would we let them gorge on their device? Set the screen aside and encourage a family game night. Mandate healthy bedtimes and encourage participation in sports and exercise programs. Encourage dinner time discussion.

Of course, our children need to learn computer skills. However, we also need them to have social skills. Screens can be a healthy, educational part of our children’s lives while allowing a balanced approach that includes exercise, friends, activities and sound sleep. Read more at HealthyChildren.org/MediaUsePlan. Enjoy the time you have with your children.

Dr. Melanie J Wilhelm DNP CPNP is a Doctor of Nursing Practice, and a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in Norfolk, as well as an Assistant Professor at Old Dominion University. Her book, Raising Today’s Baby: Second Edition, is available on Amazon.com. Read more at RaisingTodaysChild.com. Email Dr. Wilhelm at raisingtodayschild@gmail.com. Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RaisingTodaysChild and twitter at www.twitter.com/Rzn2dayschild.

You May Also Enjoy