Collectively, we’ve all got the same challenges are parents; raising smart, confident and compassionate kids. Today, this is no easy task. Relationships, education, nutrition, religion, safety and more are all a part of our tasks in raising healthy (physically, spiritually and emotionally) kids. While all of these areas are up to each family individually, one aspect of parenting that’s perhaps the most debated is screen time. How much is too much? What are the limits? Is all screen time bad? How do I deal with something so pervasive and ingrained in our society? I use my phone constantly, what kind of example am I setting?
All of these are great questions and something we all probably ask ourselves every day. Let’s face it: technology isn’t going anywhere. We need to adapt and help our kids make smart choices. If your child isn’t engaging in technology yet, they will be soon enough. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be. Here’s a look at some guidelines and what to consider when deciding how much is too much and when it’s appropriate to allow kids screen time:
- Weighty issues. One aspect of screen time to consider is the rising rate of obesity in children. Experts unanimously agree that screen time is a major contributor. Even if your child is young and not facing any issues now, it can become an issue when they’re older.What to do: Balance screen time with activity. Thirty minutes or an hour of time on the iPad should equal as much time outside playing in the snow, walking or running, or time at the playground. Indoor activities count, too. Dancing, playing hide and seek or anything that gets kids moving vigorously is all part of counteracting the sedentary screen time state.
- Age appropriateness. What’s appropriate for an older sibling may not be right for littles. It’s a guideline up for each parent to decide. What to do: Research each app or video and know what your child is watching. Keep them with you or in the same room to know what they’re viewing or playing. Technology is much easier for you to control when it’s in view.
- Make technology work for you. All devices come with restrictions. On an iPhone, you can limit screen time by automatically having the screen lock after a certain length of time. What to do: Help your child understand restrictions by creating screen chart. Use a visual aide, like and actual chart on the refrigerator, to help them see how many minutes per day is acceptable for technology versus other chores and activities. Make it fun and colorful with stickers. They can even ‘earn’ screen time with simple chores.
Remember, as with most things in parenting, it’s all about balance. Too much of one thing is never good. Teach your child that it’s perfectly fine to enjoy some time with technology but that other things are important, too. Lead by example and put your phone away when you’re with them for 20 minutes to an hour. Take a walk, read a book or ask them for help in the kitchen making a healthy snack. Most importantly, unplug and enjoy all the precious moments with them.
Summer is in full swing and the temperatures are soaring, which makes it the perfect time to enjoy the long, lazy days of summer. In the pool, camping, at the beach or just in the backyard enjoying a BBQ and family time, now is the time to help kids play and explore in the outdoors. But, with fun must come protection. Skin needs to be protected from the burning, harmful rays of the sun and the bites of potentially disease carrying mosquitoes and ticks. Nothing ruins a fun day more than a painful sunburn and arms and legs covered with itchy mosquito bites.
What’s safe to use on kids? What’s effective? How much should you use and how frequently should you reapply? Here are some guidelines to follow:
Separate but equal. Never use a combination sunscreen and insect repellent. Sunscreen should be reapplied, especially after water activity, and insect repellent should only be used once per day. In addition, insect repellent should not be used directly on the face and hands. Little hands can easily make their way into the mouth, and no insect repellent should ever be ingested. Use sunscreen and insect repellent as separate products.
DEET details. The American Academy of Pediatrics has approved DEET insect repellent as safe for children over 2 months. Choose a repellent with up to 30 percent DEET, which repels both mosquitoes and ticks. The higher percentage doesn’t mean it has more DEET, only that it last longer. If you’re hiking or exposing young children to wooded areas where ticks are likely present, keep in mind DEET is the most effective FDA-approved repellant for ticks. If you decide to use a natural repellant with plant based oils, remember they need to be applied much more often. Keep in mind oil of lemon eucalyptus products should not be used on children under 3.
Sunscreen Safety. Choose a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Look for the words ‘broad spectrum’ on the label. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, which is sufficient to block 93 percent of UVB rays (UVB rays cause burn, but UVA rays penetrate deeper, which can be just as cancer-causing). The best way to apply sunscreen is to apply liberally at least 30 minutes before going outside and more every hour or after water activity.
Keep in mind. Sunscreen and insect repellent are just part of the solution. Other ways to protect include keeping kids out the sun when it’s at its peak (mid-day) and wearing protective clothing like long-sleeved swim shirts and hats. For bugs, the same is true. Dusk and dawn are good times to keep kids inside (when mosquitoes are most active) and long sleeves and pants help protect them against bites, too.