My Blog - Children's Medical Center
Posts for: February, 2020
A child’s brain develops most rapidly during its first five years of life. The increased use of digital devices (phones, tablets and TVs) among our youth has sparked much debate among the medical world and parents alike. While this subject has been the topic of many pediatric studies, a recent study that uses a diffusion tensor MRI takes it to a new level by examining the brain’s white matter.
White matter is made up of fibers, typically distributed into bundles called tracts, which form connections between brain cells and the rest of the nervous system. The white matter of the brain is responsible for organizing communication between the various parts of the brain's gray matter. Gray matter contains the majority of the brain cells that tell the body what to do.
Results from the MRI show that higher screen use was associated with white matter tracts that were less developed throughout the brain. Researchers are looking at how a lack in the development of these white matter tracts may slow down the brain’s processing of information.
A few ways that too much screen time can effects a child include:
- Inability to pay attention and think clearly
- Increase in poor eating habits
- Increase in behavioral problems
- Delay in language and speech development
- Poor sleep quality
- Impaired decision-making skills
- Decrease in parent-child engagement
These studies are still in their infancy and researchers will continue to monitor the effects that screen time has on our youth. Some activities that researchers have seen reverse the effects and help speed up the processing capabilities of the brain include reading books, juggling or hand-eye coordination games and learning and practicing a musical instrument.
Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind as you navigate through the first five years of your child’s life:
- No screen time for kids under the age of 18 months
- Facetime with family members is acceptable for babies and toddlers
- Toddlers should have no more than one hour of screen time a day
- Parents should engage and interact with toddlers as they watch videos or use interactive touch screens
- Children 3-5 should watch content that’s educational and teaches them new skills
If you have questions about screen time and how digital devices and are affecting your child, please call Children’s Medical Center. Our doctors are happy to help guide you and evaluate your child should you have any concerns. Call us today to set schedule an appointment.
Palm Harbor (727) 787-6335
West Chase (813) 891-6501
Trinity (727) 376-8404
Lutz (813) 751-3131
Social Media can certainly take over one’s life if you let it, adults included. The endless notifications, constant checking for updates and the pressures of staying connected. It’s enough to drive you crazy. Now, imagine being a child and dealing with those same stressors. Recent studies show a significant increase in depression and suicidal thoughts for teens, especially those who spend multiple hours a day using their phones or checking social media. However, social media can’t take all the blame.
Doctors agree that building up your child’s self-esteem can help to better prepare them to deal with the traps of social media. One of the best ways to build self-esteem in a child is to find something they like to do and show an interest in, such as sports, the arts, coding camps or music. Kids feel good when they are good at something and it’s not just about fitting in or looking a certain way. It builds their confidence and allows them to interact with other kids face-to-face.
Many teens go through feelings of confusion, isolation and even depression. Social media may not be the root of these emotions, it could be that those feelings cause one to use social media even more — to fit in, to connect with peers, to get support. Researchers note that a child’s teen years are stressful as it is — the academic pressures, peer pressures, peer relationships and wanting to fit in — then, you add in the world of social media and it takes it all to another level.
A survey among young people ages 14-24, has discovered that this age group does feel that social media increases their feelings of depression, anxiety, poor body image and loneliness. It’s important for parents to identify the stressors taking place in their child’s life, help problem-solve with their teen and validate how difficult these situations can be for anyone. Let your child know they are not alone, and you are listening.
Learning how to make friends and navigate relationships is a major part of growing up. However, the increased use of texting and chatting online to have conversations is changing the way kids and event adults engage with one another. Kids are known to gang up on each other, but through social media the opportunity for it is even greater.
Here are a few things you can do to navigate the tricky world of social media with your teens:
- Work with your teen to set social media expectations and set boundaries.
- Make time each day to talk to your child and allow them to open up to you.
- Set screen-free times as a family and connect with each other.
- Teach your children the importance of face-to-face conversations.
- Be good role models in your own use of digital devices and set the example.
- Put your devices away completely when having any serious discussion with your teen.
- Have shared digital times where you participate with your children online.
- Get your child involved in something they like (sports, arts, volunteering, etc.)
Adolescence can be complicated — this was true before the invention of social media. You want to create a safe place for your child and let them know that they can always come to you no matter what. The doctors at Children’s Medical Center are happy to help guide you and assist in creating a social media plan that works best for you and your family. If you have any concerns regarding depression or anxiety in your teen, we are here to help.
Keep our number nearby and call us if you have any concerns.
Palm Harbor (727) 787-6335
West Chase (813) 891-6501
Trinity (727) 376-8404
Lutz (813) 751-3131
If you feel like you’ve lost control of your family’s screen time and digital consumption, you’re not alone. Healthcare professionals and technology leaders have seen a tremendous rise in technology use among children and adults. One recommendation they have to help monitor your family’s digital device use is by creating a family media plan.
Here are 8 key areas to focus on as you build out a plan that works for your family:
A Healthy Balance
Technology is here to stay and it’s going to continue to grow at a phenomenal rate. Finding a healthy balance between digital-use and when to put the technology away will keep your family connected to one another on a deeper level. Less screen time will give you more time to connect, play outside, experience new things and explore your neighborhood.
Screen Free Zones
Designate certain areas of your home to be screen-free. As a family, make an agreement that you will not use phones, tablets, games or computers in these areas. That means no charging either. Designate a charging area for all electronics. Key tech-free zones include:
- Child’s bedroom
- Kitchen table or dining room table
- The family room
Screen Free Times
Make it a habit to have certain times of the day that are tech-free. This will give you a chance to discuss your day, catch up on what happened throughout the day, and wind down for the day. Key times can include:
- On the way to school in the morning
- On the way home from school
- The first hour after getting home from school
- Meal times
- One hour before bedtime
Designate a time of night that all phones and tablets must go to sleep. By setting a curfew time, your family will get into a habit of retiring their devices to their charging station every night at the same time and trigger the start time for their own bedtime routine.
Quality Media Selections
The quantity of media available to your family is astonishing. Together with your children, choose quality media that you both can agree on. Delete any apps that are not educational or do not have a parental setting option. When you enjoy media time as a family, engage with your children and the games they’re playing or videos they’re watching. Show an interest and ask questions.
Digital Censorship and Safety
Cyber space can be a dangerous place in more ways than one. Start the conversation early with your children and educate them on the right and wrong way to use technology. They should know how to spot trouble, how to react to strangers, when to report bullying and how not to be a bully. As a parent, check in with your child often and ask questions so that you can spot the signs early and address accordingly.
Sleep & Exercise
Technology can never replace the physical activity that your child’s body needs and craves. Digital down time will allow your child to be active and play, boosting the body physically and mentally. Sleep is also very important to a growing child. Devices in the bedroom compete for your child’s attention, keeping them up later and affecting their quality of sleep. Creating the bedroom to be a tech-free zone at bedtime will give your child a better night’s rest.
As you build out your media plan, keep in mind that this is a working plan that should be updated throughout the year as your family’s schedule changes. It’s important to create your plan as a family and get your children’s input. You may be surprised at how much time they are willing to and want to spend away from their devices.
Your Pediatrician Can Help You Build Out a Media Plan That’s Right for You
Children’s Medical Center can be a valuable resource for any questions you have when it comes to creating healthy bonds with your children. If you need help creating a media plan, we are happy to help lead you in the right direction. Call us today and schedule a consultation.