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Your Child

Study: Bedtime Routine Offers Kids Many Benefits

1:45

If your child doesn’t have a nightly bedtime routine, he or she is missing out on a tremendous amount of health and behavioral benefits according to a new study. And you’re not alone.

A multinational study consisting of over 10,000 mothers from 14 counties reported that less than 50 percent of their infants, toddlers and preschoolers had a regular bedtime routine every night.

Researchers determined that the participant’s children who did have a regular bedtime routine benefitted on many levels. The study found that children with a consistent bedtime routine had better sleep outcomes, including earlier bedtimes, shorter amount of time in bed before falling asleep, reduced night waking, and increased sleep duration. Children with a bedtime routine every night slept for an average of more than an hour longer per night than children who never had a bedtime routine. Institution of a regular bedtime routine also was associated with decreased sleep problems and daytime behavior problems, as perceived by mothers.


“Creating a bedtime routine for a child is a simple step that every family can do,” said principal investigator and lead author Jodi Mindell, PhD, professor of psychology at Saint Joseph’s University and associate director of the Sleep Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “It can pay off to not only make bedtime easier, but also that a child is likely to sleep better throughout the entire night.”

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, positive bedtime routines involve the institution of a set sequence of pleasurable and calming activities preceding a child’s bedtime. The goal is to establish a behavioral chain leading up to sleep onset. Activities may include giving your child a soothing bath, brushing teeth and reading a bedtime story.

“It’s important that parents create a consistent sleep schedule, relaxing bedtime routine and soothing sleep environment to help their child achieve healthy sleep,” said American Academy of Sleep Medicine President Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler.


Researchers found that consistency was an important factor in helping children sleep well

“For each additional night that a family is able to institute a bedtime routine, and the younger that the routine is started, the better their child is likely to sleep,” said Mindell. “It’s like other healthy practices:  Doing something just one day a week is good, doing it for three days a week is better, and doing it every day is best.”

Mothers participated in the study by completing a validated, online questionnaire that included specific questions about their child’s daytime and nighttime sleep patterns, bedtime routines and behavior. The questionnaire was translated into each language and back-translated to check for accuracy.

“The other surprising finding is that we found that this effect was universal,” said Mindell.  “It doesn’t matter if you are a parent of a young child in the United States, India, or China, having a bedtime routine makes a difference.”

Sleep deprivation is becoming an all too common problem with today’s children and adults. The earlier a good sleep routine can be established and practiced, the better for a child in the long run.

Study results are published in the May issue of the journal Sleep.

Source: http://www.healthcanal.com/disorders-conditions/sleep/63298-study-shows-that-children-sleep-better-when-they-have-a-nightly-bedtime-routine.html

Your Baby

Eating Fish During Pregnancy Benefits Baby’s Brain Development

2:00

Can eating more fish during pregnancy help babies’ brains function better as they grow older? Yes, according to a new study from Spain. The researchers say that mothers who eat three substantial servings of fish – each week- during pregnancy may be giving their children an advantage as they mature.

Researchers followed nearly 2,000 mother-child pairs from the first trimester of pregnancy through the child’s fifth birthday and found improved brain function in the kids whose mothers ate the most fish while pregnant, compared to children of mothers who ate the least.

Even when women averaged 600 grams, or 21 ounces, of fish weekly during pregnancy, there was no sign that mercury or other pollutants associated with fish were having a negative effect that offset the apparent benefits.

“Seafood is known to be an important source of essential nutrients for brain development, but at the same time accumulates mercury from the environment, which is known to be neurotoxic,” lead author Jordi Julvez, of the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona, said in an email to Reuters Health.

This important health concern prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to come up with a guideline for pregnant women in 2014. It encourages women to eat more fish during pregnancy, but limit the intake to no more than 12 ounces per week.

For this study, researchers analyzed data from the Spanish Childhood and Environment Project, a large population study that recruited women in their first trimester of pregnancy, in four provinces of Spain, between 2004 and 2008.

Julvez and colleagues focused on records of the women’s consumption of large fatty fish such as swordfish and albacore tuna, smaller fatty fish such as mackerel, sardines, anchovies or salmon, and lean fish such as hake or sole, as well as shellfish and other seafood.

Women were tested for blood levels of vitamin D and iodine, and cord blood was tested after delivery to measure fetal exposure to mercury and PCB pollutants. At ages 14 months and five years, the children underwent tests of their cognitive abilities and Asperger Syndrome traits to assess their neuropsychological development.

On average, the women had consumed about 500 g, or three servings, of seafood per week while pregnant. But with every additional 10 g per week above that amount, children’s test scores improved, up to about 600 g. The link between higher maternal consumption and better brain development in children was especially apparent when kids were five.

The researchers also saw a consistent reduction in autism-spectrum traits with increased maternal fish consumption.

Mothers’ consumption of lean fish and large fatty fish appeared most strongly tied to children’s scores, and fish intake during the first trimester, compared to later in pregnancy, also had the strongest associations.

“I think that in general people should follow the current recommendations,” Julvez said. “Nevertheless this study pointed out that maybe some of them, particularly the American ones, should be less stringent.”

Julvez noted that there didn’t appear to be any additional benefit when women ate more than 21 ounces (about 595 g) of fish per week.

“I think it's really interesting, and it shed a lot more light on the benefits of eating fish during pregnancy,” said Dr. Ashley Roman, director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York.

“I think what's interesting about this study compared to some data previously is that they better quantify the relationship between how much fish is consumed in a diet and then the benefits for the fetus and ultimately the child,” said Roman, who was not involved in the study.

Roman also noted that pregnant women should avoid certain fish such as tilefish, shark, swordfish and giant mackerel. These are larger fish with longer life spans that may accumulate more mercury in their tissue.

While fish may be a great source of protein and benefit brain development in utero, most experts agree that women should consult their obstetrician about what fish are safer to eat and how much they should eat during pregnancy.

The study was published online in the January edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology

Source: Shereen Lehman, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-pregnancy-fish-idUSKCN0UW1S4

 

 

 

Your Child

Are You Making Your Child More Anxious?

2.00 to read

When a child shows that he or she is anxious or in distress, a natural response is for a parent to want to remove whatever is causing the discomfort. However, according to a new study, it may not be the best reaction for your child in the long run.

Researchers call it the “protection trap.” Basically it means smothering children with too much attention or making the menace go away.

The research showed that certain parental coddling behaviors might actually boost anxiety in a child, although the study doesn't prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

"We found evidence that when parents try to help their anxious children they do a lot of things," said study co-author Armando Pina, an associate professor of child developmental psychology at Arizona State University. "Some of them are good, like promoting courage with warmth and kindness. Others are less helpful, like promoting avoidance by overprotecting, which many times leads to more anxiety."

Other experts have also weighed in on this topic.

"Left untreated, anxiety disorders in youth are associated with greater risk for other psychological problems such as depression and substance use problems," said Donna Pincus, director of research at the Child and Adolescent Fear and Anxiety Treatment Program at Boston University. Anxiety problems can also disrupt families and cause kids to perform worse in school, she added.

So what should a parent do or not do?

"When children are in distress or upset they need parental comfort, reassurance and extra love. This is good," said study lead author Lindsay Holly, a graduate student at Arizona State University. "Sometimes, however, parents end up providing excessive reassurance and doing things for the child, like making excuses for why a child who is anxious in social situations won't go to a birthday party or talking for the child by ordering at restaurants."

Here’s how the study was conducted.

Researchers examined the results of a survey of 70 kids aged 6 to 16 who were treated for anxiety and/or depression at a clinic. The kids were equally divided among boys and girls and among whites and Hispanic/Latinos.

The investigators found that some kids were more likely to have anxiety and depression symptoms if their parents reinforced or punished their anxiety through various approaches. Among the two ethnic groups, "the only difference was that Latino parents seemed to attend more frequently to their children's anxiety," Holly said.

Pina noted that previous research has indicated that a certain kind of therapy can help kids become less anxious and more resilient by teaching the importance of facing fears. One of the goals of the therapy is to teach parents how to promote courage in the kids through a combination of warmth and kindness, Pina said.

Some experts believe that by exposing children to anxious situations in a controlled, supportive environment, they can learn how to handle their anxiety better.

Holly suggests that parents encourage their children "to do brave things that are small and manageable." A child who's afraid of speaking in public, for instance, might be urged to answer a question about whether they want fries with their meal at a restaurant.

While every child is going to be anxious at one time or another, a more difficult situation is when children suffer from an anxiety disorder. That is a more serious problem where someone experiences fear, nervousness, and shyness so much so that they start to avoid places and activities.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect one in eight children. Research shows that untreated children with anxiety disorders are at higher risk to perform poorly in school, miss out on important social experiences, and engage in substance abuse. Anxiety disorder often shows up alongside other disorders such as depression, eating disorders, and ADHD.

The good news is that with treatment and support, a child can learn how to successfully manage the symptoms and live a normal childhood.

The study conducted at Arizona State University, looked at typical child anxieties and how parent’s interactions either helped or prolonged the anxiousness.

The study was published recently in the journal Child Psychiatry and Human Development.

Sources: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/overprotective-parenting-could-worsen-kids-anxiety/

http://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/children/childhood-anxiety-disorders

Your Child

Healthier Choices for Students in School Lunch Lines

1:30

School lunches have changed over the years and in many school cafeterias, food options are healthier than ever before, according to a new study.

Elementary school cafeterias are offering more vegetables, fresh fruit, salad bars, whole grains and more healthy pizzas, while the availability of high-fat milks, fried potatoes and regular pizza has decreased, researchers report.

"School food service programs have worked hard to improve the nutritional quality of school lunches, and largely have been very successful," said lead researcher Lindsey Turner, director of the Initiative for Healthy Schools at Boise State University, in Idaho.

Although in some schools food choices are improving, that’s not the case everywhere. Turner noted that more work needs to be done to make sure every student has the same healthy choices in the lunch line.

In the study of more than 4,600 elementary schools that are part of the U.S. National School Lunch Program, researchers found that school lunches improved significantly between 2006-2007 and 2013-2014.

Despite improvements in food choices, disparities were still found. For example, schools in the West were more likely to offer salad bars than schools in the Northeast, Midwest or South, the researchers found.

Schools with a majority of black or Hispanic children were less likely to offer fresh fruit than schools with a preponderance of white students.

Also, schools in poor areas were less likely to offer salads regularly.

Over the course of the study, Midwestern schools slightly reduced offering pre-made salads in favor of salad bars, but Southern schools were more likely to offer pre-made salads and less likely to have salad bars, the researchers found.

On the other side of offering healthier foods is choosing to eat those foods. Just because there are better food options available, doesn’t mean that kids will eat them. One expert noted that it takes time and effort for kids to change their eating habits. It not only has to look good, it has to taste good.

"It is not only important to improve the quality of school lunches but to make these foods attractive, tasty, easily seen and accessible," said Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical Center, in New York City.

Studies have found that putting fresh fruit in a nice bowl, in a conveniently located, well-lit area in the school cafeteria increased sales of fruit by 102 percent, she noted.

"A brightly lit, hot-and-cold salad bar filled with colorful fresh fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts, mushroom and spinach pizza, and veggie tacos center-stage in the lunchroom would be very attractive to students and staff alike," Heller said.

This approach works well at home, too, she added.

"Kids are more likely to grab healthy foods like cut-up melon, carrots, peppers, edamame and hummus when they are upfront and easy to grab in the fridge," Heller said.

The study was published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

Story source: Steven Reinberg, http://consumer.healthday.com/vitamins-and-nutrition-information-27/food-and-nutrition-news-316/america-s-school-lunches-getting-healthier-study-709097.html

Your Teen

Kid's Poor Sleep Habits and Depression

1.50 to read

A 2010 study of 392 boys and girls published online in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that those who had trouble sleeping at 12 to 14 years old were more than two times as likely to have suicidal thoughts at ages 15 to 17 as those who didn't have sleep problems at the younger age.Scientists are discovering that children with chronic sleep problems are at increased risk for developing a mental illness later in life.

Recent studies show that children who have persistent sleep problems, such as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or not getting enough night-time shut-eye, are more likely later to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders and to abuse alcohol and drugs than kids without sleep problems. The findings add to previous research that has linked children's sleep problems to a host of issues, including aggressive behavior, learning and memory problems and obesity. A 2010 study of 392 boys and girls published online in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that those who had trouble sleeping at 12 to 14 years old were more than two times as likely to have suicidal thoughts at ages 15 to 17 as those who didn't have sleep problems at the younger age. In a study published last year in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, involving 386 participants, children whose mothers reported that they were overtired when 3 to 8 years old were 2.8 times as likely to binge drink when they were 18 to 20 years old. And a study of 1,037 children revealed that 46% of those who were considered to have a persistent sleep difficulty at age 9 had an anxiety disorder at age 21 or 26. By comparison, of the children who didn't have sleep problems at age 9, 33% had an anxiety disorder as young adults, according to the research, which was published in 2005 in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. Scientists caution that some study-sample sizes are small and research is still in its early stages. Psychiatrists and psychologists say they hope that by addressing sleep problems in childhood, some of the instances of later mental illness can be prevented. Clinicians also have developed effective treatments for poor sleep and are experimenting with some new approaches that teach kids how to reduce the frequency and strength of anxious thoughts that can crop up at night. In general, doctors do not recommend using medication to help kids sleep. "We think that healthy, optimal sleep may be a buffer against developing anxiety and depression in kids," says Ronald E. Dahl, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley and a leading researcher on pediatric sleep. Anxiety disorders and depression are the most common mental illnesses: 28.8% of the general population will have an anxiety disorder in their lifetime and 20.8% will have a mood disorder, according to a 2005 study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Anxiety disorders emerge early in life: The median age of onset is 11, according to the study. Rates of depression spike in adolescence, too. And those who develop depression young tend to have a more serious disease, with a higher risk of relapse. Scientists aren't certain as to why poor sleep in childhood increases the risk of anxiety disorders and depression. It could be that sleep problems lead to changes in the brain, which, in turn, contribute to the psychiatric illnesses, they say. Or some underlying issue, partly explained by genetics and early childhood experiences, could be a precursor to both poor sleep and the mental disorders. Researchers say that before puberty—between the ages of about 9 and 13—is a key time to tackle poor sleep. That's before the spike in rates of depression and the upheavals of adolescence and while the brain is still very responsive. "The brains of children are far more plastic and amenable to change," says Candice Alfano, assistant professor of psychology and pediatrics at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Sleep changes dramatically after puberty: Circadian rhythms shift so kids naturally stay up later. With schools starting early, kids often don't get enough sleep. Academic and social pressures surge, too. A small study suggested healthy sleep may be able to help protect kids from depression—even those at high-risk because of genetics. (Both anxiety disorders and depression are believed to be partly inherited.) The study, published in 2007 in the journal Development and Psychopathology, found that children who fell asleep quicker and spent more time in the deepest stage of sleep were less likely to develop depression as young adults. A larger body of research shows that improving sleep in kids and adults who already have mental-health problems also leads to a stronger recovery. A Good Night Most parents underestimate the amount of sleep children should get a day. They need: Infants: 14 to 15 hours Toddlers: 12 to 14 hours Preschoolers: 11 to 13 hours School-age kids: 10 to 11 hours Teenagers: 9 to 10 hours Strategies to encourage healthy sleep in kids Set a regular bedtime and wake time, even on weekends. Make the bedroom a dark and quiet oasis for sleep. No homework in bed. Create a calming bedtime routine. For younger kids: a bath and story. For older kids: Reading or listening to mellow music. Limit caffeine consumption, especially after 4 p.m. Ban technology (TV, Web surfing, texting) in the half hour before bed. The activities are stimulating. The light from a computer can interfere with the production of the sleep-promoting hormone, melatonin. Don't send kids to bed as punishment or allow them to stay up late as a reward for good behavior. This delivers a negative message about sleep. Help kids review happy moments from the day. Have them imagine a TV with a 'savoring channel.' Relegate anxious thoughts to 'a worry channel.'

Your Child

Promising New Peanut Allergy Patch

1:30

Peanut allergies can be life-threatening for some children, but a new “peanut patch” may be the solution their parents have been searching for.

The small skin patch – known as Viaskin® Peanut -is applied to the child’s skin and appears to offer safe and effective protection against this serious condition.

“This is exciting news for families who suffer with peanut allergies because Viaskin represents a new treatment option for patients and physicians,” study author Hugh A. Sampson, a doctor at Kravis Children’s Hospital at Mount Sinai, said in a statement.

Based on the principle of epicutaneous immunotherapy (EPIT), the patch delivers small doses of peanut proteins when placed on patients’ skin.

The team of researchers completed a double blind, placebo-controlled randomized Phase IIb trial in which 221 individuals with peanut allergies underwent the therapy for a year.

The patch exposed patients to a small dose of peanut protein, ranging from 50 to 250 micrograms, for the course of the study.

The 250 µg peanut patch shows the most promise for researchers. “After one year of therapy, half of the patients treated with the 250 micrograms patch tolerated at least 1 gram of peanut protein – about four peanuts —which is 10 times the dose that they tolerated in their entry oral peanut challenge,” Sampson explained.

Compliance was greater than 95% and less than 1% of the participants dropped out of the study due to adverse symptoms. In fact, there were no serious adverse reactions related to the patch treatment.

Overall, children treated with the larger patch experienced a robust increase (19 fold) in peanut-specific IgG4 levels, the antibody associated with protection following immunotherapy.

“EPIT appears safe, well tolerated and effective. That’s good news for families who suffer from food allergies,” Sampson said.

While the results are promising, researchers will continue to follow the participants for another year. It could be several more years before the patch become available for consumers, but there is hope on the horizon.

Source: http://www.aaaai.org/about-the-aaaai/newsroom/news-releases/peanut-patch.aspx

Justin Worland, http://time.com/3718529/peanut-patch-allergy/

Your Teen

Early Puberty and Bone Health

1.50 to read

The normal rate of bone mass decline in adulthood is about 1 to 2 percent each year. This means that a 10 to 20 percent increase in bone density resulting from a naturally early puberty could provide an additional 10 to 20 years of protection against normal age-related decline in bone strength, according to the researchers.A new study suggest the earlier your child starts puberty, the lower the risk he or she will have osteoporosis later in life.

The research was based on 78 girls and 84 boys, who were studied from the time they began puberty until they reached sexual maturity. The investigators found that adult bone mineral density was influenced by age at puberty onset, with greater bone mass linked to early puberty and less bone mass associated with later puberty. However, bone strength did not seem to be affected by how long puberty lasted. "Puberty has a significant role in bone development," study leader Dr. Vicente Gilsanz, director of clinical imaging at the Saban Research Institute of Children's Hospital Los Angeles, said in a hospital news release. "During this time, bones lengthen and increase in density. At the end of puberty the epiphyseal plates close, terminating the ability of the bones to lengthen. When this occurs, the teenager has reached their maximum adult height and peak bone mass," Gilsanz explained. Reduced bone mineral density leads to osteoporosis, which affects 55 percent of Americans aged 50 and older. The normal rate of bone mass decline in adulthood is about 1 to 2 percent each year. This means that a 10 to 20 percent increase in bone density resulting from a naturally early puberty could provide an additional 10 to 20 years of protection against normal age-related decline in bone strength, according to the researchers. The study was published in the January issue of the Journal of Pediatrics. Pediatricians have long understood the role of pediatric bone development in osteoporosis prevention. The tween and teen years are critical for bone development because most bone mass accumulates during this time. In the years of peak skeletal growth, teenagers accumulate more than 25 percent of adult bone. By the time teens finish their growth spurts around age 17, 90 percent of their adult bone mass is established. Following the teen years, bones continue to increase in density until a person is about age 30. The need for calcium in the diet. Calcium is critical to building bone mass to support physical activity throughout life and to reduce the risk of bone fractures, especially those due to osteoporosis. The onset of osteoporosis later in life is influenced by two important factors: •   Peak bone mass attained in the first two to three decades of life •   The rate at which bone is lost in the later years Although the effects of low calcium consumption may not be visible in childhood, lack of adequate calcium intake puts young people at increased risk for osteoporosis later in life. Other foods, including dark green, leafy vegetables such as kale, are also healthy dietary sources of calcium. But, it takes 11 to 14 servings of kale to get the same amount of calcium in 3 or 4 8-ounce glasses of milk. In addition to calcium, milk provides other essential nutrients that are important for optimal bone health and development, including: •       Vitamins D, A, and B12 •       Potassium •       Magnesium •       Phosphorous •       Riboflavin •       Protein The role of physical activity in bone development. Weight-bearing physical activity helps to determine the strength, shape, and mass of bone. Activities such as running, dancing, and climbing stairs, as well as those that increase strength, such as weight lifting, can help bone development. For children and teenagers, some of the best weight-bearing activities include team sports, such as basketball, volleyball, soccer, and softball. Studies show that absence of physical activity results in a loss of bone mass, especially during long periods of immobilization or inactivity.

Your Teen

Inhaled Steroids to the Rescue

1.45 to read

A new study suggests that the combination of daily-inhaled steroids, with the bronchial dilator Albuterol when an asthma attack starts, may improve mildly persistent asthma in children.

Using inhaled steroids as a rescue medicine along with albuterol may help some children with mild persistent asthma avoid daily inhaled steroid therapy and one of its potential side effects, namely growth restriction, according to a new study. The new findings, which appear in the Lancet, apply only to children with mild persistent asthma that is under control. This step-down treatment is not recommended for children with moderate to severe asthma or uncontrolled mild asthma. Many children with asthma take one or two puffs of inhaled steroids such as beclomethasone, morning and evening to prevent an asthma attack. They also use a bronchial-dilator such as albuterol as a rescue medication to treat any breakthrough symptoms. Such symptom relief from albuterol doesn’t get at the underlying airway inflammation, which is why some people need daily-inhaled steroids. Steroids, inhaled daily, are still considered the gold standard to prevent asthma attacks but are not risk-free. Risks of daily-inhaled steroid therapy in children include possible restricted growth and problems with adherence. “The strategy is to give rescue therapy with inhaled corticosteroids every time you need Albuterol for relief of symptoms,” says study researcher Fernando D. Martinez, MD, the Swift-McNear Professor of Pediatrics and director of the Arizona Respiratory Center at the University of Arizona Tucson. For example, “you can use two puffs on Monday and another two puffs on Friday during one week, none during another week, and six puffs every day on another week, depending on how many symptoms you have,” he says in an email. The key is to know when you need help. “If the cold starts causing tightness and shortness of breath, the child will need more albuterol and thus will use more inhaled steroids,” he says. Colds can be an asthma trigger. “The number of inhaled steroid puffs is proportional to how many albuterol puffs are needed, and therefore, to how severe the symptoms are.” Always Discuss Medication Changes With a Doctor First “This is some important and landmark work,” says Harold J. Farber, MD, an associate professor of the pediatric pulmonary section at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children Hospital in Houston and author of Control Your Child's Asthma. “Starting the steroid, beclomethasone, along with albuterol at onset of symptoms gave almost as good of a benefit in prevention as daily inhaled steroid therapy,” he says. But “for it to work, you have to start it early at first sign of an attack,” he says. “If we wait for severe problems, it’s too little too late.” This advice is only good for “folks with mild asthma, not folks with moderate to severe asthma,” he says. “If you have moderate to severe asthma, the use of inhaled corticosteroid every day is better than as-needed use.” “Always talk with your doctor before making any changes to medication,” Farber says. “When used as a rescue modality, inhaled steroids (beclomethasone) do a reasonable job at controlling symptoms without the side effects of reduced growth,” says William Checkley, MD, assistant professor in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. “This step-down approach reduces the need to do puffs twice a day.” But “there have to be more studies to support these findings,” he says. Checkley wrote an editorial accompanying the study.

Daily Dose

Kids & Too Much TV

1:30 to read

Another recent study has just been released which confirms that children are getting close to 4 hours of background TV noise each day. While many parents are aware of the need to limit their children’s active screen time (which includes TV, video game, telephone texting and computer screens) to no more than 2 hours per day, background TV time may be equally important. The American Academy of Pediatrics also discourages any TV viewing for children under age 2 years. 

*The study from The University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication defines background TV as “TV that is on in the vicinity of the child that the child is not attending to”.  The research looked at TV exposure in 1,454 households with children aged 8 months-8 years. The study found that younger children and African-American kids were exposed to more background TV than other children.  Having background TV noise of any kind can disrupt mental tasks for all and may also interfere with language development in younger children. 

Those households that had the least background TV exposure were those that did not have a TV in the child’s room!! That doesn’t seem to be a surprising finding at all. Many parents leave the TV on in a child’s room to help them sleep, although there are numerous studies to show exactly the opposite effect, TV disrupts sleep. I now routinely ask every parent during their child’s check up if there is a TV in the child’s room. I also ask every older child the same question, and there are many teens who are not happy with me when I encourage their parents to take the TV out of the bedroom of their adolescent. There is just no need to have a TV in the bedroom of children of any age.  I have given up on this discussion with my college aged patients! 

While many parents are doing a good job of monitoring what their children are watching on TV, and how long they are watching, we may not be doing as well when it comes to background TV.  While older kids hear news stories or language that they needn’t be exposed to, a younger child’s language skills may be delayed due to background TV noise. 

So, the kitchen TV needn’t be on while you are making your children their breakfast before school or in the evening while eating dinner. Family dinner is one of the most important times of the day and conversation is the key. No one needs to try to talk over the TV, just turn it off! 

Lastly, keep reading those bedtime stories for children of all ages; this is key to language, and appropriate language at that. 

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.

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