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Ask The Kid's Doctor

Ask The Kid's Doctor

Your Child

Kid’s Phones and Tablets Replacing TV Viewing


Believe it or not, there was a time when the radio provided people their main source of news and entertainment but then came television. Since the 1950s television has been king of the airwaves, but even that is changing thanks to a plethora of mobile options and kid’s viewing habits. Will TV sets eventually go the way of the radio? It’s possible.

The societal transference of TV viewing habits, from over-the-air to over-the-mobile screen, is most evidenced in how tots, tweens and teens consume content: using phones and tablets to access the Internet-based providers of their liking — no television necessary — with YouTube and Netflix consistently emerging as standouts.

“The shift away from traditional broadcast cable TV services, that’s been happening for years, but now we’ve hit critical mass,” said Terence Burke, the vice president of research for the kid-focused market research company KidSay. “Kids still watch TV. They still head to Disney and Nickelodeon, just in much smaller numbers and for much shorter durations.”

How are kids watching their programs? From tots to teens, many are using one or more mobile devices. The percentage of children that now own or use a smart phone or tablet is pretty amazing. According to the Pew Research Center, 88 percent of American teens ages 13 to 17 have or have access to a mobile phone, and 73 percent of teens have smartphones. Tweens, ages 10 to 13, are not far behind. And according to a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics, almost all children (96.6%) used mobile devices, with most starting before age 1.

Smarty Pants, a market research firm that conducts an annual study on the digital behavior of kids’ ages 6 to 12, found that 81 percent of 6- to 8-year-olds and 76 percent of 9- to 12-year-olds use YouTube.

Netflix, meanwhile, is used by an identical percentage of the older set. A large chunk of the younger 6- to 8-year-olds, or 71 percent, are also Netflix users, according to the firm’s, “2015 Clicks, Taps & Swipes Report,” which was fielded between June and August with a nationally representative panel of kids and their parents.

With an endless selection of videos that are funny, irreverent and even educational, YouTube is not only the new stand-in for traditional cable TV when it comes to kids, but it’s also their go-to search engine. And, as kids get older, Netflix satisfies tweens’ emerging cravings for more serial material. Both video services win with kids because there is always something to watch, and all that’s required is a click of button on their favorite devices.

The three top producers of entertainment and streaming programming, YouTube, Netflix and Amazon, know that kids are changing the marketing landscape and have developed kid channels with competitive pricing.  Parents looking for a way to cut cable costs are taking notice, cutting the cord and paying less for kid specific programming.

While mom and dad may still enjoy the enormous 70 in wide television set in the living room, their children are most likely going to be in their own room with one or more mobile devices streaming program that’s more to their liking.

Many kids say they can identify with the enormous variety of YouTube personalities. They feel more of a connection to them than with Hollywood or television stars. There’s also the interaction on comment sites with other viewers and kids their age.

Which videos watchers choose to click on is often driven by how many views its’ had or from peer recommendation.

Of course, with YouTube, Netflix and Amazon there is not only kid’s programming but plenty of adult programming as well.

It’s definitely a different world from when many of us grew up. Once the “Wonderful World of Disney” or the “Ed Sullivan” show was family time in front of the TV set. Now, mobile devices have made it possible for everyone to go their own way and watch whatever they want. Not exactly a family bonding experience or a time when one can talk about what you’ve watched together.

Experts agree that for parents trying to keep an eye on their kid’s viewing habits, it’s getting harder and harder to monitor what they are seeing and learning over the Internet. That said, parents shouldn’t just throw up their hands and give in to allowing their children all the free time they want on their smart phone or tablet. Setting guidelines and sticking to them may not make you the most popular parent for a while, but your child may learn that there are benefits and rewards when someone loves you enough to lay down some common sense rules and expect that they be followed.

Sources: Jennifer Van Grove,



Daily Dose

Entertaining Kids in the Waiting Room

Here's a dilemma: how do you entertain your kids while waiting in the pediatrician's office?What a busy day back in the office post holiday weekend! When I walk into an exam room, I'm always curious to see what my patients and their parents are doing while they wait (wish I never ran late and no one ever waited!).  At any rate, I got into a really interesting discussions with several parents as to what we should have in our waiting room and exam rooms to help make the waiting easier.

A mini poll revealed no clear consensus but there were some very intriguing ideas and comments. Our group practice “voted” last year to put TV’s in our waiting rooms. For the record I voted NO, as I thought it was hypocritical to have TV’s in our office when we were discussing limiting screen time (TV, computer etc) with our families. But, majority rules, and I lost, so we have TV’s in all of our waiting areas. Now, when the TV’s were all installed, it was decided that they would not be on all day long. Instead, there would be TV time as well as quiet time as we have reading and “library” areas in our waiting room too. Just like many homes, I realized that the TV came on at 8:30 am and stayed on until 10 pm at night. Our practice never had designated “reading time”.  Despite having books, most of the kids and parents opted to watch the Disney channel on TV. So, two different parents spoke to me today about our TV selections and how they seemed to be geared to older children.  I thought we watched Disney, but must admit I am not in the waiting room censoring TV or watching what TV shows are on throughout the day. The best line of the day was a precocious, adorable 5 year old who told me, “my Mommy says your office is inappropriate.”  Of course I immediately thought she was talking about waiting. But, upon further questioning not only could she tell me what the word inappropriate meant, “ if you go outside naked, that is inappropriate” she also told me that it was the TV show that was on while they were in the waiting room that her mother deemed inappropriate.   It happened to be a Disney show with Miley Cyrus. I think I have to agree with her. Probably not age appropriate for all children. Her mother and I got into a great discussion about ideas for better viewing options, including movies like Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music or even The Little Mermaid (there are scary parts there too).  I commend this mom for voicing her opinion and really being aware what her children are watching. This family only has 1 TV in their home.   I think we should hire her to come up with our viewing options and make DVD’s for our office that are more appropriate for all ages. Another mother talked to me about having quiet time and reading in the waiting room. She thinks that this would actually calm bored children while they wait.  (I have very fond memories of reading Highlight’s magazine in the pediatrician’s office with my mother helping to look for the hidden objects).  It would also mean that the parent is engaged while reading with or to a child. She noted that most parents in the waiting room today were on their cell phones or iPads etc. and that the children were either running around or watching TV.  She always brings a bag of books with her when she comes and I bet her children will always have a love of books. Will have to see. I don’t know the right answer, but I really appreciated the comments.  We are going to try and start having our waiting room have designated reading times and TV times and see if we can get to a happy medium. I know we will never make everyone happy but this should be a good start.  Wish us luck! That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow. Send your feedback, comment or email to Dr. Sue!

Your Teen

Violent Video Games Tied to Teen Agression

Adolescents who play violent video games may become increasingly aggressive over time according to research from a new study. The study of American and Japanese teenagers found that kids who played violent video games on a regular basis were more likely than their peers to become increasingly involved in physical fights.

"Basically what we found was that in all three samples, a lot of violent video game play early in a school year leads to higher levels of aggression during the school year, as measured later in the school year -- even after you control for how aggressive the kids were at the beginning of the year," said lead researcher Dr. Craig A. Anderson of Iowa State University. Researchers also point out that not all children who play aggressive video games act them out in real life. Nor is media violence alone to blame for teenagers' aggression. Another researcher in the study pointed out that what video games may do is feed the idea that violence is a normal and acceptable way to react to everyday conflicts. ""It is important to realize that violent video games do not create schools shooters," said Dr. Douglas A. Gentile. Researchers followed three groups of children ages nine to 18 years old over several months. The study is the first to show that effects are seen across cultures. It is also the first study to chart changes in gamers' aggressive behavior over time.

Daily Dose

Can TV Impact Language Development?

A new study looks at how television, which may even be background noise, may interfere with parent-child interaction and conversation.There has been a lot written about television watching in children and the effects it has on their overall health and well being, including learning, moods, academics and even sleep habits.

A study published in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine is interesting as it looked at how television, which may even be background noise, may interfere with parent-child interaction and conversation. In this study every hour that a child spent within earshot of a television, fewer words were spoken by the parents to their young children and fewer vocalizations were made by the children. In the United States about 30% of households have their TV's on all the time. Although the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages television or even video viewing (why do all of those Baby Einstein DVD's sell?) before the age of two, parents continue to have televisions and DVD's playing not only at home but in the car, while a child isin their stroller holding the portable DVD or iPhone with a video playing etc. I see this everywhere I go, even in the office exam rooms where we encourage reading a book while waiting, but many toddlers are adept at even turning on their own DVD. This study showed that each additional hour of TV exposure by the child (study children ages 2 months - 4 years) was associated with a decrease of 770 words (about 7%) that the child would hear from an adult during a recording session. Recording sessions were done on random days for up to 24 months during the study. Additionally, the additional hour of TV exposure was associated with a reduction in the number and length of vocalizations in the child. As pediatricians we are always concerned about language development, from the first babbles of a 2 -4 month old your-baby, to first words around 1, followed by putting words together at 15-24 months and then the sentences that 2-4 year olds use which become more complex with age. Could it be that in some children who have language delays that we should be inquiring about television exposure, even as background noise? Pulling out books and music to stimulate language may be old fashioned but seems to be the gold standard. That's your daily dose, we'll chat again tomorrow. Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

Kids & Too Much TV

1.00 to read

Another new 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.

Your Child

Kids Not Sleeping Well? Could Be the Electronics in the Bedroom!


If you’re concerned that your child is not getting enough sleep, here’s one way to help him or her rest better and longer. Remove the television and other small electronics from your child’s bedroom.

According to a new study, children who sleep with televisions or other small-screened devices – such as smartphones and tablets – in their bedrooms, spend less time sleeping than children without those devices in their rooms.

“While more studies are needed to confirm our results, we know that too much screen time is bad for children’s health in multiple ways,” said Jennifer Falbe, the study’s lead author from the University of California, Berkley.

Other studies have linked having a televisions in a child’s bedroom to poorer sleep, but there hasn’t been much research into the impact of smaller electronic devices in children’s bedrooms and sleep.

For the new study, Falbe and colleagues used data from 2,048 fourth- and seventh-graders enrolled in an obesity study in Massachusetts. Researchers found that kids with TVs in their rooms slept about 18 minutes less than kids without TVs in their rooms.  When they looked at the effect of sleeping next to small screens, the time spent not sleeping increased to 21 minutes. Less sleep is often tied to other issues including obesity and academic performance.

The children that slept next to small screens also reported feeling as if they didn’t get enough sleep during the night.

Not surprisingly, researchers noted that watching TV and playing video games before bedtime, including those on a computer, was also linked to less sleep.

There are a number of reasons why televisions and small-screened electronics may result in worse sleep, such as the bright light of screens before bed, sounds and alerts and more sedentary activity to name a few

“Parents can keep screen media out of the child’s bedroom, limit total screen time and set a screen time curfew,” Falbe said.

A recent study revealed that reading e-readers, instead of paper books, before bed can actually make you more alert than sleepy. The electronic light appears to shift the body’s circadian rhythms delaying the production of the hormone melatonin.

So it’s no surprise that television, computer, tablet or smartphone light could do the same thing. Watching TV or participating on smaller screen activity also stimulates the brain instead of sending the signal to relax and fall to sleep.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under two avoid screens altogether and that parents establish a “screen-free” zone in the home. Results from this study strongly suggest that one of the screen-free zones be in your child’s bedroom.

Source: Andrew M. Seaman,

Your Teen

Almost 1 in 10 Young Video Game Users ‘Addicted’

A growing number of young video game players exhibit signs of addiction to gaming a new study has found.A growing number of young video game players, 8.5 percent, exhibit signs of addiction to gaming a new study has found. The study conducted by researchers at Iowa State University is the first to document the prevalence of video game addiction using a nationally representative sample of children and adolescents. The study reveals the gaming interferes with school performance, disrupts interaction with family and friends and poses health problems.

"What's most concerning to me is really the total percentage, just the vast number of kids that are having real problems in their lives because they play games, and they may not know how to stop it," said developmental psychologist and assistant professor from Iowa State University Douglas A. Gentile. His study appears in the May 2009 edition of Psychological Science. Experts don't agree on whether "video game addiction" really exists. At present, it is not listed as a mental disorder in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Stastistical Manual of Mental Disorders. "I think we're at the same place now with video gaming as we were with alcoholism 40 years ago," said Gentile, noting that decades of research finally showed that alcoholism is a disease. The new study is based on data from a nationwide survey of 1,178 American children and teens, aged 8 to 18, conducted by Harris Interactive. The surveys were conducted from January 2007 and involved approximately 100 children as each age represented in the sample. Children completed an online questionnaire using several scales to assess their video gaming habits. They were asked questions such as "Have you ever played [video games] as a way of escaping from problems or bad feelings?" "Have you ever lied to family and friends about how much you play [video games]?" To measure pathological gaming in kids, Gentile adapted criteria used to diagnose pathological gambling. Gamers were classified as pathological if they exhibited at least six of the 11 criteria. Pathological gamers played more frequently and for more time, received worse grades and were more likely to report having trouble paying attention in school than non-pathological players. They also reported more health problems associated with playing video games, such as hand and wrist pain. The study also found that pathological gamers were more than twice as likely to have been diagnosed with attention-deficit-disorder, 25 percent of pathological gamers versus 11 percent of non-pathological players.. They were also more likely, 24 percent versus 12 percent, to report having been involved in physical fights in the past year. "I think it does highlight that parents and kids do need to talk about game play and they do need to talk about rules," said Cheryl K. Olson, co-director and co-founder of the Center for Mental Health and Media at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. However, she questioned the appropriateness of adapting questions used to assess problem gambling in adults. "It's one thing for a child to fib to his mom about how long he's played a video game," Olson said. "It's another thing to lie to your wife about gambling."

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