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Is Longer Screen Time Bad for your Child’s Health? Experts say it might be time to relax the rules

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group focused on kids’ use of media and technology, said in a report that kids ages 8 and younger average about 2 hours and 19 minutes with screens every day at home.

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New York, October 22, 2017 : Parents of small children have long been hearing about the perils of “screen time.” And with more screens, and new technologies such as Amazon’s Echo speaker, the message is getting louder.

And while plenty of parents are feeling guilty about it, some experts say it might be time to relax a little.

Go ahead and hand your kid a gadget now and then to cook dinner or get some work done. Not all kids can entertain themselves quietly, especially when they are young. Try that, and see how long it takes your toddler to start fishing a banana peel out of the overflowing trash can.

“I know I should limit my kid’s screen time a lot, but there is reality,” said Dorothy Jean Chang, who works for a tech company in New York and has a 2-year-old son. When she needs to work or finds her son awake too early, “it’s the best, easiest way to keep him occupied and quiet.”

Screen time, she says, “definitely happens more often than I like to admit.”

She’s not alone. Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group focused on kids’ use of media and technology, said in a report Thursday that kids ages 8 and younger average about 2 hours and 19 minutes with screens every day at home. That’s about the same as in 2011, though it’s up from an hour and a half in 2013, the last time the survey was conducted, when smartphones were not yet ubiquitous but TV watching was on the decline.

While the overall numbers have held steady in recent years, kids are shifting to mobile devices and other new technologies, just as their parents are. The survey found that kids spend an average of 48 minutes a day on mobile devices, up from 15 minutes in 2013. Kids are also getting exposed to voice-activated assistants, virtual reality and internet-connected toys, for which few guidelines exist because they are so new.

SCREEN TIME
Students play with their iPads at the Steve Jobs school, Aug. 21, 2013. The Steve Jobs schools in the Netherlands are founded by the Education For A New Time organization, which provides the children with iPads to help them learn with a more interactive experience. VOA

Mixed message

Some parents and experts worry that screens are taking time away from exercise and learning. But studies are inconclusive.

The economist Emily Oster said studies have found that kids who watch a lot of TV tend to be poorer, belong to minority groups and have parents with less education, all factors that contribute to higher levels of obesity and lower test scores. For that reason, it’s “difficult to draw strong conclusions about the effects of television from this research,” Oster wrote in 2015.

In fact, the Common Sense survey found that kids whose parents have higher incomes and education spend “substantially less time” with screens than other children. The gap was larger in 2017 than in previous years.

Rules relaxed

For more than a quarter century, the American Academy of Pediatrics held that kids under 2 should not be exposed to screens at all, and older kids should have strict limits. The rules have relaxed, such that video calls with grandma are OK, though “entertainment” television still isn’t. Even so, guidelines still feel out of touch for many parents who use screens of various sizes to preserve their sanity and get things done.

ALSO READ Few Tips For Parenting Boys, Which Will Make Them Kind And Gentle

Jen Bjorem, a pediatric speech pathologist in Leawood, Kansas, said that while it’s “quite unrealistic” for many families to totally do away with screen time, balance is key.

“Screen time can be a relief for many parents during times of high stress or just needing a break,” she said.

Moderation

Bjorem recommends using “visual schedules” that toddlers can understand to set limits. Instead of words, these schedules have images — dinner, bed time, reading or TV time, for example.

Another idea for toddlers? “Sensory bins,” or plastic tubs filled with beads, dry pasta and other stuff kids can play around with and, ideally, be just as absorbed as in mobile app or an episode of “Elmo.”

Of course, some kids will play with these carefully crafted, Pinterest-worthy bins for only a few minutes. Then they might start throwing beans and pasta all over your living room. So you clean up, put away the bins and turn on the TV.

In an interview, Oster said that while screen time “is probably not as good for your kid as high-quality engagement” with parents, such engagement is probably not something we can give our kids all the time anyway.

“Sometimes you just need them to watch a little bit of TV because you have to do something, or you need (it) to be a better parent,” Oster said. (VOA)

Next Story

Nose of Kids Hold Clues to Serious Lung Infections

Experts say this breaks with traditional thinking that symptoms predict whether either a virus or bacteria is causing the illness and could impact a decision of whether or not to use antibiotics

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People pass by an installation of an artificial model of lungs to illustrate the effect of air pollution outside a hospital in New Delhi, India, Nov. 5, 2018.

Tiny organisms in a child’s nose could offer clues to improving the diagnosis and treatment of severe lung infections, a new study suggests.

The study found that the composition of the microbiome — bacteria and viruses found in vast numbers in the body — was altered in the noses of children with respiratory infections, compared with his healthy peers.

This difference predicted how much time children had to spend in hospital and helped spot those likely to recover naturally, potentially reducing the need for antibiotics, said researchers from the University of Edinburgh.

“Our findings show, for the first time, the total microbial community in the respiratory tract — rather than a single virus or a bacteria — is a vital indicator of respiratory health. This could impact how doctors diagnose LRTIs and use precious antibiotics to fight infections,” said lead author Debby Bogaert, Professor at the varsity.

Lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs), including pneumonia and bronchiolitis, are a leading cause of death. Symptoms include, shortness of breath, weakness and fever.

Coal Miners
Former coal miner Wade Pauley, who has Black Lung disease after working 33 years underground in mines, stands for a chest x-ray at United Medical Services in Pikeville, Kentucky, U.S., May 22, 2018. (VOA)

It was found that the microbiome in the back of the nose and throat was related to that seen in the lungs, making it easier to understand and diagnose infections.

For the study, published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, the researchers studied more than 150 children under the age of six, hospitalised with LRTI. They compared them with 300 healthy children.

Children with LRTI had a different microbiome profile — including the types and amounts of individual viral and bacterial organisms — compared with the healthy children.

Also Read- Inactive Ingredients in Medicines May Cause Allergy: Study

These profiles could identify 92 per cent of children as being healthy or ill when combined with factors like the child’s age. This was true no matter what symptoms the child had.

Experts say this breaks with traditional thinking that symptoms predict whether either a virus or bacteria is causing the illness and could impact a decision of whether or not to use antibiotics. (IANS)