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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

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

Here are some common questions parents and caregivers have when it comes to the HPV vaccine.

What is HPV?

There are a few types of human papillomavirus (HPV). Some types cause warts on the skin, others effect the genital or anal areas and some types can cause cervical cancer. The two most common types that cause cancer are type 6 and 11.

How Common is HPV?

Twenty million Americans are currently infected with HPV and nearly six million Americans are infected every year. Nearly half of all new infections are diagnosed in girls and young women between 15-24 years old. HPV is the most commonly sexually transmitted disease in the U.S. It’s common for someone infected with HPV to not know it. The best way to avoid contracting HPV is through abstinence.

What is the link between HPV and Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer has only one cause, and that is HPV. Oftentimes, cervical cancer does not occur until twenty years after the initial infection. If given the HPV vaccine before becoming sexually active, the likelihood of contracting HPV and in case, cervical cancer, is reduced nearly 100%.

Who Should Get the HPV Vaccine?

Children between the ages of 9-12 are recommended to receive the HPV vaccine. It is given as two shots, spaced 6-12 months apart, if the vaccine is received before the age of 15. For those that receive it after the age of 15, three doses are recommended. Getting the vaccine for your children before they become sexually active is imperative.

Is the HPV Vaccine Safe?

Yes, the HPV vaccine, also known as GARDASIL®, is safe. It is made using surface protein from the virus, therefore it cannot cause HPV or cervical cancer. Some symptoms you may see include redness or tenderness at the site of the infection or a low-grade fever. The vaccine will last a lifetime and help prevent cancer.

If you have questions about the HPV vaccine for your child, contact Children’s Medical Center.

We are here to answer any questions you may have and help guide your decision-making when it comes to the HPV vaccine for your adolescent child. If you need assistance or recommendations in how to communicate with your child on how HPV can be contracted, we can offer ways to foster healthy conversations.

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.