Reducing Screen Time–Even Just a Little–Makes a Big Difference

mrdad - screen time ripple effect

mrdad - screen time ripple effectDear Mr. Dad: My wife and I have an 11-year-old who’s very tech savvy and spends a lot of time on her phone and computer. A lot of experts—you included—talk about how we parents should cut back on our kids screen time. That sounds like a great idea, except that we both work full time and are exhausted when we get home, and neither of us has the energy to get into a battle with our daughter. We tried limiting her screen time, but after a few weeks, we didn’t see any difference in her behavior or her grades. Is there really any point in forcing the issue? Our home seems a lot more peaceful when don’t bug our daughter.

A: I love technology, and I’m constantly amazed at the marvelous things it allows us to do. But when it comes to kids (and many adults), there can be too much of a good thing. The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that children spend an average of seven hours per day in front of some kind of screen (TV, computer, phones, and other devices). In addition, quite a bit of research indicates that there’s a direct correlation between screen time and obesity, eating disorders, poor academic performance, and other problems.

In our gut, most parents understand that we need to monitor our children’s screen time, but given how pervasive screens are in our daily life, limiting them is really hard. What makes it even harder is that, as you pointed out, it doesn’t produce immediate benefits. As a result, we can get frustrated, question why we’re trying in the first place, and simply give up rather than risk getting sucked into a knock-down-drag-out fight.
[Read more…]

The Happy Sleeper + Building Resilience

Julie Wright, co-author of The Happy Sleeper.
Topic:
A science-backed guide to helping your baby get a good night’s sleep
Issues: Babies already know how to sleep—parents don’t need to “train” them; how to be sensitive and nurturing, but also clear and structured so babies and young children can develop the skills to self-soothe, fall asleep independently, through the night, take healthy naps, develop natural sleep patterns for day and night.

Kenneth Ginsburg, author of Building Resilience in Children and Teens.
Topic:
Giving kids roots and wings
Issues: The effects of stress and how to foster resilience; grit: the character trait that drives performance; building competence and confidence; the importance of connection, character, and contribution; coping with difficulties and taking care of oneself; increasing kids’ sense of control and independence.

A Revolutionary Sleep Training Method

Lewis Jassey, co-author of The Newborn Sleep Book.
Topic:
A revolutionary method for training your newborn to sleep through the night.
Issues: The importance of sleep for both baby and family; the myths and truths about baby sleep; why babies wake up crying (hint: it’s not always because they’re hungry); the Jassey method of sleep training.

Finding Your Inner Parenting Perfection + Get Your Newborn to Sleep through the Night

Roma Khetarpal, author of The Perfect Parent.
Topic:
How to use your inner perfection to connect with your kids.
Issues: Why we all need a parenting makeover; how perfectly happy, relaxed individuals become stressed out parents; how we empower our children when we understand ourselves; what defines good communication between parent and child; the importance of treating children as individuals, listening to them, and understanding what they’re saying.

Lewis Jassey, co-author of The Newborn Sleep Book.
Topic:
A revolutionary method for training your newborn to sleep through the night.
Issues: The importance of sleep for both baby and family; the myths and truths about baby sleep; why babies wake up crying (hint: it’s not always because they’re hungry); the Jassey method of sleep training.

Your Baby’s Sensory World and Moods


Megan Faure, author of The Babysense Secret .
Topic: Learning how to understand your baby’s moods.
Issues: Creating a baby-centric routine and struggle less to get your baby to sleep; understanding your baby’s sensory world and signals to avoid overstimulation, which leads to fussiness.

Sleep Woes: How Much Is Too Much?

Dear Mr. Dad: My husband and I have a three-year-old daughter and we’re a concerned about her sleeping patterns. Most people we know who have kids the same age worry that their children aren’t getting enough sleep. We’ve got the opposite problem—including naps, she sleeps about 14 hours a day! Is there such a thing as getting too much sleep?

A: Sleep is one of the things that parents of infants and toddlers struggle with the most—and, as you said, the problem is usually too little of it, not too much. Nevertheless, it’s perfectly natural to worry about anything child-related that’s out of the ordinary, even if it’s something that would make a lot of other parents envious. The general consensus among experts is that children your daughter’s age should be getting 12-14 hours per day of shuteye, including naps, so you’re within the range of what’s “normal.”

Children do a lot of their developing—both physical and mental—when they’re asleep, so there’s no question that sleep is important. But as we all know, kids develop at different rates, so it’s no surprise that what may be plenty of sleep for one toddler could be nowhere near enough for another. Bottom line, we all need as much sleep as we need—and those needs change over time. At six, your daughter probably won’t need any more than 12 hours per night. And by the time she heads off to middle school, she’ll be down to 10 or 11. When she hits the teen years, her sleep needs will increase (but since worrying about her will keep you awake at night, your family’s total average sleep time will stay about the same).

The thing to focus on here is the quality of your daughter’s sleep, not the quantity. And one way to assess that is to simply pay attention to her behavior when she’s awake. If she’s generally happy, energetic, playful, engages with you, and seems to be having a good time, all is well. But if she’s sluggish, tired, irritable, or behaves differently (worse) than usual, there could be a problem. It could be something as simple as iron deficiency, but it’s worth making a call to your daughter’s pediatrician.

A note on last week’s column on the Obama Administration’s exaggerated claims of the prevalence of sexual assaults on college campuses. I received a huge number of responses from men and women around the country. Most were quite supportive and some shared their very poignant experiences of having been falsely accused of assault and how difficult (or, in some cases, impossible) it has been to recover. A smaller number of people disagreed with my take on the issue and shared their equally poignant stories of instances where legitimate cases of rape or assault had been ignored and, again, how difficult or impossible it has been for the victim to recover. But whether they agreed or not, these emails had one thing in common: they were written by people who had an interest in a respectful, healthy debate of an important issue.

Unfortunately, there were a few outliers—people (all of whom disguised their identities in some way) who felt the need to call names, make accusations and threats, and even suggest ways I should kill myself. I truly enjoy interacting with readers of this column and am happy to discuss pretty much anything with anyone, but if your email is inappropriate (you’ll know it if it is), don’t expect an answer.