Category Archives: television

Back in School, Part 1: Staying Healthy

Now that your child is back in school, the sometimes easy-breezy days of summer have turned hectic with schedules, deadlines, homework, complex relationships.  For the next few weeks we’ll be running a series about things to keep in mind during the school year ahead.

Today we start with how best to insure a healthy year at school.

You already know the best way to stay healthy, but it bears repeating:  prevention is always the best medicine.  Here are some pointers.

  • Checkups.  Has your child had her annual well child checkup?  If not, now is the time to schedule it.  The doctor will look at health history, height and weight, and will discuss age-appropriate health topics with you and your child.  If you have a specific concern (social behaviors, learning difficulties, chronic ear infections, etc.) to discuss, you’ll want to let the office know when you call for the appointment to make sure they schedule a longer visit for you.
  • Immunizations.  Yes, we harp on this a lot, but it’s for good reason.  Immunizations protect children, families, and even whole communities from dangerous diseases.  The state requires that you keep certain ones up to date; we have others we recommend.  Check with our office (or on the patient portal) for your records.
  • Exercise.  Sitting all day at school, then coming home and sitting in front of the TV or at the computer and homework desk is not good for your kid.  He needs to get moving.  Don’t expect physical education classes to provide all the exercise he needs.  Unstructured play is good for all children, and organized sports are a great way to learn things like discipline, teamwork and a sense of accomplishment.
  • Germs.  Let’s be honest.  There’s no way to avoid germs at school.  Uncovered coughs and sneezes, shared desks and close quarters give viruses all sorts of opportunities to infect students.  Some exposure is good to develop immunity, but keeping hands clean is a great way to stave off colds and flu.  Send hand sanitizer to school in your children’s backpack, and remind them to clean their hands before eating and after they use the restroom.  Every time.  Don’t share drinks or eating utensils.  And, while we’re at it, remind them not to share combs, brushes or hats, which is the most common way to spread head lice.
  • Sleep.  A good night’s sleep is an essential ingredient in the learning process.  Sleep also helps mood and strengthens the immune system.  Set a regular bedtime and stick with it, making sure your child or teen has an age-appropriate amount of sleep.
  • Balanced diet.  Eating right feeds both body and brain.  This webpage at the American Academy of Pediatrics site lists several of their articles regarding diet.  Don’t forget we have a dietician on staff who can help you come up with an action plan for your young athlete, picky eater, diabetic, or can help you plan easy lunches and snacks to pack for school.

Keep these things in mind throughout the school year and they will help your child have a successful and healthy school year.

© 2014, MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved

Screen time for computers and games

A couple of weeks ago we dealt with content of video games here.  If you missed it, check out that important information about monitoring what your kids are playing.  It’s also important to supervise all computer screen time.

Make sure all the computers to which your youngster has access are in open places in the house.  Search the browser history at regular intervals, and make sure you have his passwords for all social media accounts so you can check that activity.  Let him know ahead of time that this is one of the rules for the privilege of using the computer and smart phone.  Take a look at texts and other accounts on her phone, and remind her of safety rules:

  • Never give out personal information online or over the phone.
  • Never assume that someone you “meet” online is giving you accurate information, and never arrange to meet such a person face to face.
  • If you get concerned about someone contacting you, tell your parent without fear of judgment.
  • Never use your phone or computer for pornography (especially child pornography, which is illegal), sexting (a form of pornography), sending any inappropriate information, or for hurting or bullying someone else.  If you receive such content inform a parent or teacher immediately.

In addition to content, you should be aware of time.  Screen time of any kind (television, movies, computer, video games) means fewer hours are available for physical activity, face-to-face interaction, reading and homework.  Screen time isn’t necessarily bad in itself, but you should monitor the amount of time.

The American Academy of Pediatrics gives great advice about video games in this online article, including the recommendation to limit video game time to one hour per day.  The same goes for other types of screen time.  If your teen or child is spending much more time than that in front of a screen (unless, of course, it’s for school), engage him in conversation about what other activities might take the place of some gaming hours.  Allow her to choose from a list of fun ways to spend her time.

  • Reading.  If your children don’t like to read, read to or with them.  Pick an age-appropriate book and take turns reading pages or chapters.  Bedtime is great for this.
  • Physical activity.  One of the problems of screen time is its sedentary nature.  Inactivity leads to weight gain and all sorts of accompanying health issues.  Get your youngster involved in a team or individual sport.  Go walking or swimming.  Shoot hoops in the driveway or play catch in the backyard.
  • Board games.  Remember Candy Land?  Connect Four?  Pictionary?  Games are widely available and great fun.  They afford great opportunities for interaction, and for learning life skills like winning, losing, and cooperation.
  • Face time.  Not the phone app, the real face time.  Find something you and your teen can share and enjoy:  cooking, eating, hiking, stamp collecting, whatever works for you.  Time invested is time well-spent.  You will reap the rewards in getting to know your child better, and they will reap the rewards in knowing you.
  • Channel that interest in computers to online learning games, or learning video games.  Check out learning games on Amazon, or try one of the websites like Adapted Mind, where you can get a 30 day free trial of games for grades 1-6 (if you continue on with membership there’s a monthly fee).

 

Bottom line:  be in charge of what your children do, even if they aren’t always in favor of your monitoring and limits.  It’s your job, and you are aiding in their full development.

 

© 2014, MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved

Video games—pay attention to what your kids are playing

As technology increases at home and school, video games have increased in number.  Each year they become more realistic-looking and exciting.  But they are also often violent, and may contain language and themes inappropriate for your youngster.

Playing video games has benefits, to be certain. They help young people learn eye-hand coordination and computer skills, things they will need to keep up in the modern world.

But there are down sides, too.  Big ones.  Questions and concerns about content top the list, but you should also be aware that many online games require the sharing of personal information and location.

First, content.  The debate continues regarding whether or not violent video games encourage violent behavior.  Opinions abound, but the bottom line is that you should monitor and decide what your child or teen can or cannot play.  In addition to violence, language and themes may often be too adult.

  • Understand ratings.  The ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) rates virtually all video games in terms of content, age-appropriateness, and interactive elements (including whether or not location and other information is shared).  All three of these areas are important.
  • Content and age-appropriateness.  The ESRB website has a great video and also written language to help you understand ratings and how they define words such as “animated blood” and “adult humor.”  The basic content and age ratings are:
    • Early Childhood;
    • Everyone;
    • Teen (13 and up);
    • Mature (17 and up);
    • Adults only.
    • Pay attention!  Games rated “Mature” have truly adult themes (sex, violence, language) and are simply NOT appropriate for younger ages.  Even those with a rating of “Teen” may surprise you with their level of violence and tasteless language.
    • PREVIEW.  Learn about games before you buy.  This website at Common Sense Media is a great source of information.  If your youngster is asking for a particular game, look for the title here to see some screen shots and other details.
    • Interactive elements.  If you are concerned about private information being shared, or worry your child or teen might be connecting (accidentally or purposefully) with people you don’t know, READ THIS.

One important note about violence.  Whether or not your teen or child plays violent video games, you should pay attention if he exhibits violent behavior.  If she is violent with you or other family members, with schoolmates or with animals, talk to your pediatrician about finding a counselor.

Bottom line:  know what your child is doing, watching, playing.  Video games are fun, but you need to be aware of content and privacy.

© 2014, MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved

 

Television–friend or foe?

Well, honestly, it can be both.

With all the appropriate attention given to the internet these days, and its inherent worries for parents, we seem to have forgotten the conversation about television.

How many TVs are in your home?  Who has access to them when?  What are your children watching?  And what are your kids watching when you’re not watching the kids?

Content on television, even content aimed at youngsters, varies from brilliant to pitiful.  Additionally, the volume of television or videos watched can make a difference in your child’s mental and social development.

Any parent these days occasionally pops in a video or turns on the television so you’ll have a few uninterrupted minutes to cook supper, take a shower, or just relax without hearing a thousand questions.  There’s nothing wrong with that, to a point, because television has its good and bad aspects.

First, the good.  Most American kids today have learned or practiced their numbers and letters with Sesame Street, and have absorbed important social skills from Mister Rogers.  Or, they have simply been entertained by cartoons, music, and Animal Planet.  There is a big world out there, and television is a good source for information and for reinforcing skills learned at home or school.

But, not all is perfect in front of the TV.  Here are some concerns you should be aware of:

  • Social.  Though social skills can be reinforced effectively on the screen, nothing takes the place of real interaction.  Turn off the television and play a board game.  Perch your child on a chair in the kitchen while you cook and encourage him to tell you about his day.  Give the video screen in your vehicle a rest and play a car tag game or have a conversation about your road trip, whether it’s a couple of miles or a couple thousand.
  • Physical.  Too much television means too little physical activity.  That can lead to weight gain (especially when high calorie snacks are involved) and other health and wellness issues.  Get your child involved in a sport, or just play catch in the backyard.

 

What to do, then?  Here are some thoughts.

  • Limit viewing time.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends NO television for children under the age of 2, so that they can develop through interaction with adults and other children.  They also recommend limiting television viewing for older children to 1-2 hours/day of “educational, nonviolent programs,” supervised by a responsible adult.
  • Supervise.  You should know what your child is watching at all times.
  • Keep the television out of your children’s bedrooms.  Not only will they watch things you don’t want them to watch, their sleep patterns may be interrupted and they may be tempted to “hibernate,” avoiding healthy social interaction with family and friends.
  • Talk about television programs.  Older children and adolescents, especially, can benefit from conversations about their favorite (and your favorite) shows.  This is a good way to share something that’s important to your teen, while being sure she knows your values.
  • Turn it off.  Don’t keep the television on for “background noise.”  And be sure to limit when you have on the news.  Young children don’t need to see scenes of war, destruction, natural disasters.  Such  images lead to anxiety and sleeplessness.

 

Television can be a great tool for education and for fun.  We just need to make sure it doesn’t take the place of more important things!

artwork by Emily N., winner of our Pumpkin Coloring Contest!

artwork by Emily N., winner of our Pumpkin Coloring Contest!

 

© 2013 MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved