Healthy Digital Media Exposure for Kids: How to Regulate Screen Time

In a world that is consumed by technology, it can be difficult to determine what’s considered healthy digital media exposure for kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics had previously set a general time limit of no more than two hours in front of the television for kids over the age of two, and none for children under two. However, television is no longer the only way that children are being exposed to time in front of a screen.

So, how do you regulate your screen time for children? Guiding your children to use digital media responsibly at a young age is important. Here are a few things to consider.

Defining Screen Time

With technology being used for educational purposes more than ever before, the AAP has defined screen time as “time spent using digital media for entertainment purposes.” This means that other forms of screen time exposure such as online homework are not applicable.

Issues with Too Much Screen Time

By age two, children can reap benefits from certain types of screen time exposure such as music or stories. In addition, there are now many educational programs and applications in digital media. However, these things should not be replacing things like playtime or reading a physical book as opposed to using a tablet. To aid in development, children need unstructured time doing things like playing outside with friends or siblings. Over time, too much screen time exposure for kids can lead to things such as obesity, irregular sleep schedules, disconnect between parents and children, behavior issues, or loss of social skills.

Regulating Screen Time Exposure by Age

Age makes a large difference in determining appropriate screen time exposure for kids. As your child grows, digital media will become more accessible to them, so teaching them to use digital media responsibly is important.

0-18 Months

Ideally, infants should not receive any screen time. The more face to face interaction a baby has with his/her parents aids in brain development and creating healthy parent-child relations.

18 months-5 years

This is a safe age to introduce your child to digital media. However, make sure you use it with them to regulate what they are watching and to ensure they are not being exposed for more than one hour a day. PBS is a good place to start for TV programs because of entertaining and educational shows like Sesame Street. These shows are made for children, are at a real-life pace, and do not have advertisements, limiting the potential for over stimulation.

Other positive channels of digital media exposure for kids at this age are applications used for video messaging. This correlates their digital media experience with adult interaction, which promotes healthy brain development.

6 years and older

Once your child reaches this age, it is up to the parents’ discretion to regulate what they feel is a healthy amount of screen time and digital media exposure.

According to the AAP, a healthy day for a child includes school, homework, approximately one hour of physical activity, time for family and friends, and sleep. If there is time left over, that can be screen time. However, it is important that screen time does not replace other productive activities.

As parents, you are role models for your children’s media behavior. Keep them engaged and excited about activities outside of screen time; encourage reading a book, social activities, and other options that prevent direct media use. Turn off cell phones and laptops at night, discourage screens one hour before bedtime, and make time for media-free activities together.

At the end of the day, the type of media your child is exposed to is more important than the amount of time spent on screens. Use media with your children to teach them about what they are seeing and how to responsibly use it. Remember, not all digital media is detrimental to your child; the amount of digital media available allows for creativity, interaction, and other productive forms of education. Teaching healthy habits for your child’s screen time will help him/her continue to maintain responsibility as exposure to digital media increases.

Caring Matters: Encouraging Empathy in Children

Empathy is a characteristic that we admire in others, but rarely do we think about how it forms in children. Empathy is extremely complex, and it’s difficult to determine exactly when a person becomes empathetic in his/her life. Further complicating the matter is the fact that even adults have differing degrees of empathy, and some people are better at understanding and relating to people’s feelings than others.

One generally accepted fact is that empathy is a trait that should be encouraged, and teaching it to your children is an important responsibility for parents. Encouraging empathy in children helps them adapt to social situations, which is especially important in school settings. Check out our tips to help your child become more empathetic as he or she grows older.

Provide Support

When children’s emotional needs are met at home, they are more likely to show empathy for their peers. As a parent, you should remind your child that you will always be there when he or she needs emotional support. Offer constructive feedback when your child is feeling down, so he or she knows they can always depend on you for helpful advice when something goes wrong. This will teach your child to bounce back from distress quickly, which is essential if they want to provide emotional support to anyone else. When you help to problem solve in an empathetic way, your children will feel safer in any situation, including those where others need support.

Be a Role Model

Parents that show empathy for others on a daily basis are more likely to have children who act the same way. Whenever you notice an opportunity to show empathy to someone else, and your children are around, take advantage of the opportunity for an important life lesson. After you show empathetic behavior toward someone else, talk to your child about why it’s important to act that way. A good situation to demonstrate empathy is noticing someone who looks lost, and offering directions so he or she can get where they need to go. Children are likely to remember that act of kindness and incorporate it into their own behavior.

Remind Children of Commonalities 

Research indicates that children are better able to empathize with others when they feel like they share something in common. This sense of familiarity helps children see themselves in another person’s shoes, so it serves as a helpful stepping-stone in teaching empathy towards everyone. If you’re watching the news and there is a story about people who are suffering, emphasize the things your child has in common with those people. Maybe they live in the same area, have the same hair color, or went to the same school — whatever you decide to point out, make it clear that the way other people feel matters.

Use Storytelling

Seeing things from another perspective might seem easy to you, but for a child it is a completely new concept. Books, movies, and TV shows provide an opportunity to talk your child about how fictional characters would experience the world if they were real. When you’re watching a program or reading a book, ask your child what he or she thinks characters are thinking and feeling in specific situations. Follow up by asking why he or she thinks that: is it the character’s words, expressions, actions, or something else? Share what you think the characters are experiencing and why you think that to compare your observations. You might be surprised with your children’s empathetic progress over time as you try this activity.

Keep Trying 

If your child is struggling to show signs of empathy, it’s important to be patient. Some children take a while to understand the importance of empathy, but nearly all children grasp the concept at some point between the ages of five and seven. Stay persistent when teaching empathy, because one lapse in your own behavior could set a bad example for your kids. When your children understand how other people experience emotions, it’s typically easier for them to make friends and get along with others on a daily basis. Instill these values early, and your children are sure to be better off in the long run.

Kids and Caffeine: Tips and Suggestions for Safe Caffeine Intake

Caffeine is a stimulant many of us rely onto help us wake up in the morning, for an afternoon pick-me-up, or even to get a little extra energy before exercise. However, like most things, caffeine intake should be monitored to avoid potential harmful effects. This is even more crucial for children.

Can Kids Have Caffeine?

Ideally, children under the age of 12 should not be consuming caffeine at all since it is a drug that affects the functions of your body. But there are safe levels of caffeine that can be consumed based on the age of your child:

Kids aged 4 to 6 years old can consume roughly 45 milligrams a day
Kids aged 7 to 9 can consume roughly 62.5 milligrams a day
Kids aged 10 to 12 can consume roughly 85 milligrams a day

While it is unlikely parents are allowing young children to consume coffee, soda or energy drinks regularly, it is important to know that these are not the only sources of caffeine a child may consume. It is important to keep track of how much caffeine your child is consuming, and watch for harmful caffeine side effects.

Hide and Seek with Caffeine

Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not require manufacturers to list caffeine on nutrition labels, caffeine can sneak its way into you or your children’s food or drinks without you noticing. While attempts at stricter regulations for caffeine labeling have been made over the years, products that contain natural caffeine still do not have to note it on the label. Here are some caffeinated foods and drinks to keep an eye out for.

Diet Soda

Diet soda is typically sought after due to the decrease in sugar. However, diet sodas tend to carry more caffeine than regular soda. Just a 12-ounce Diet Coke can have around 45 milligrams of caffeine.

Chocolate

Cocoa beans have natural caffeine, so while it is present, you won’t find it listed on the label. It is important to pay attention to chocolate your child is eating, especially dark chocolate, which tends to be more caffeinated. One ounce of milk chocolate can have approximately 4 milligrams, while one ounce of dark chocolate can have roughly 20 milligrams. This includes hot chocolate as well, which can have 5 milligrams per every eight or so ounces.

Over-the-Counter Medicine

Many over- the- counter medicines have caffeine in them since it is a nervous system stimulant which stimulates the brain to relieve ailments such as headaches, and cold or allergy symptoms like itchiness or drowsiness. However, for children 12 and under, over-the-counter medications containing caffeine have not been proven safe.

Be sure to consult with a pediatric provider on the safest over-the-counter medications for your child.

Effects of Caffeine on Kids

Even in moderate doses, caffeine can cause insomnia, headaches, dehydration and the slowed absorption of calcium into the bones. Drinks that have caffeine also tend to have a large amount of sugar, which can lead to additional health problems.

Caffeine is absorbed into every tissue in the body, increasing heart rate and blood pressure. Caffeine is a diuretic, which can cause dehydration, headaches, dizziness and an increase in thirst.

Additionally, caffeine affects appetite and moods. Some may see a positive mood change followed by a major crash later. Children can suffer massive mood swings or an increase in anxiety levels.

What Can Parents Do?

It is important for parents to educate themselves on the effects of caffeine, pay close attention to the amount of caffeine their children consume and where it comes from, and to observe how it affects them. Encourage your child to drink water. Do your best to offer beverages with sugar and caffeine in moderation.

Improving Heart Health for Kids: 3 Things Parents Should Know


Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Although symptoms usually appear later in life, the factors that lead to the illness begin much earlier — even experiences during infancy can contribute to heart disease. Children don’t always understand the risks of heart disease, so it’s up to parents to minimize a child’s chances of getting it. While hereditary factors are impossible to change, there are lifestyle choices that make a difference in heart health for kids. Help your child live a healthy life and do what’s best for their heart.

Get Creative with Activities

An active lifestyle can improve heart health, so it’s important to get your kids moving. The trick is to give kids activities they actually want to participate in, rather than ones that make them feel like they’re doing something just to stay healthy. As children are naturally curious, consider taking them somewhere they’ve never been before like a park, playground, or swimming pool. This will encourage your children to use their imagination, as they stay active and have fun. Don’t be afraid to join in — heart health is just as important for adults as it is for children.

Make Nutrition a Priority

Like any muscle, the heart requires a balanced and healthy diet to function correctly. Unfortunately, children are often picky eaters who don’t enjoy the foods that are best for their health. One way to change unhealthy eating behaviors is to start small — slowly introduce healthy foods into a child’s diet so they don’t feel overwhelmed by a plate full of greens. You could swap whole wheat for white bread, fruit for candy, and carrots for chips. Take it one step at a time and lead by example. After all, if you’re not eating healthy, your children have a real excuse not to consume nutritious foods themselves.

Ensure a Healthy Sleep Schedule

Getting a full night’s sleep doesn’t just make a child feel better in the morning; it can help their heart in the long run. The most important part of a sleep schedule is that your kids stick to it every day of the week. This might not be so difficult on weekdays when school and homework make your child feel tired, but children sometimes want to stay up late on the weekends. Stay firm with bedtimes and eventually your children will know that going to bed at a certain hour is non-negotiable. You might feel bad making them hit the hay early, but remember that you are simply improving their heart health one night at a time. Teens require around 9 hours of sleep every night, and younger children need even more, so be sure they are getting the right amount to stay healthy.

Every kid deserves a healthy heart, so do what you can to keep things pumping smoothly. The steps you take today are sure to have a positive effect later in your child’s life. When you improve a child’s diet, exercise, or sleep schedule, you are giving them the gift of a healthier heart. Even if they don’t understand it today, they will be grateful they grow up. If you’re wondering how to get started improving your child’s heart health, check out our blog post “Benefits of Cooking for Your Kids” to tackle nutrition first. There’s nothing quite like a home-cooked meal, so make dinner more delicious and nutritious every day of the week.