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Posts for tag: screen time

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

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

Device Curfews

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.

Modeling healthy phone habits for our children can be challenging. Oftentimes, your phone is used for work, ordering groceries, checking the weather, nearly everything you do can be done on your phone. We are more connected now than we’ve ever been. However, all that connecting may be hurting your actual connection with your children and their ability to learn.

Here are 4 reasons to put down your phone:

  1. Positive feedback builds self-esteem. Children are constantly learning and they want to show you what they’ve learned. They thrive on your reaction. By responding with positive attention­ — a smile, a laugh, words of encouragement and affirmation — you are building their confidence and encouraging them to keep trying.
  2. Eye contact creates a stronger connection and emotional impact. This is especially important with babies. You can see a baby light up when you make eye contact and talk to them. That contact is vital to their brain growth and development.
  3. Talking to your child builds brain power. Children learn by watching and you set the example for what they’re picking up. Communication and social skills are developed through listening, talking, reading, singing and playing with their parents. That’s hard to do when you’re on the phone.
  4. Your child is your priority. When a child is competing for your time and attention, they can feel unimportant. Children learn how to interact with others and how to love others by watching their parents. It’s based on how their parents and caregivers love them, teach them, and encourage them.

So, what can you do as a parent to change your digital phone habits?

  • Designate tech-free times. Make it a daily habit that you do not use your phone for certain periods of time. For example, mealtimes, bath time, or even designate certain rooms as tech-free, like your child’s bedroom.
  • Plan tech-free outings. Quality time can create memories that will last a lifetime. Yes, you want to get that picture, but not every moment of every outing needs to be documented. Try to make some outings digital-free and be present in the moment.
  • Use technology effectively. There will be times that you have to be on your phone in front of your children. Include them in what you’re doing. Talk to them about what you’re doing, what you see, ask them questions about it. Create a dialog that shows them you care about them and they are more important than your phone.

Are You Concerned About Your Child’s Speech and Language Development?

Children’s Medical Center can help answer any questions you have, address any concerns and perform an assessment to evaluate your child’s development. 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

The National Institutes of Health has launched a study that will be conducted on kids ages 9-10 throughout the United States. The study is in the early phases and will last ten years, but the early results are fascinating. Although the study will take years, here are some of the results to date:

  • MRI results from 4,500 participants showed varying differences in the brains of children that use digital screens more than seven hours per day. The biggest difference being premature thinning of the cortex.
  • Kids who spend more than two hours per day on screens are already performing lower on thinking and language tests.

The study was highlighted on ‘60 Minutes’ which featured multiple doctors and researchers that are taking part. We highly encourage you to watch the full segment to see how screen time could be affecting your child’s brain. Here are few key takeaways:

  • Babies younger than 18-24 months should avoid digital use completely, other than facetime for phone calls. The first two years is one of the most crucial times for brain development in children.
  • When Toddlers are using i-pads, tablets and phones to watch videos or play games, their attention is captured for a much longer period of time than during any other type of play. The products are designed to hold their attention as long as possible. Parents should control the amount of time a child is using them, and an adult should always be present.
  • Findings are showing that the percentage of teens that say they are lonely or depressed has spiked in recent years. A test that limited college-students to just 30 minutes of social media use a day, found that they felt significant decreases in loneliness and depression. Talk to you teen about how much time they are spending on social media.
  • Scans on the brains of young adults are showing a dopamine effect when they are actively using their phones. The release of dopamine has a role in cravings and desire. This constant gratification means they are much more likely to be impulsive and stay on social media compulsively.

Technology is here to stay — it’s part of your day-to-day, but how you use it, engage with it and allow it to be a part of your young child’s life is up to you. If you have any questions about how this technology is affecting your child, please call Children’s Medical Center. Our doctors are happy to help guide you an assist in creating a media plan that works best for you and your family.