Archive for February, 2015

Putting Smartphones to Bed – in Another Room

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

838-02484870tWhen I was in middle school, I remember being in my bed, sneaking a late-night phone call to my boyfriend, long after the rest of my family had turned in. My mom, who obviously had heard me talking, came in and told me to wrap it up and go to sleep.

That was back in the pre-smartphone days. Now, of course, texting, Snapchatting, Tweeting and other forms of communication rule the earth. But my mom would have been just as ticked-off about those, too. And (once again) she would have been right to be concerned.

Young girl textingAccording to a new study published in the February 2015 issue of Pediatrics, smartphones in a child’s bedroom can lead to “insufficient rest” and later bedtimes – which can lead to more serious problems.

A Massachusetts Childhood Obesity Research Demonstration Study conducted in 2012 and 2013 targeted more than 2,000 fourth and seventh graders. Researchers found that 54% of the kids said they slept near a smartphone or some other form of “small screen” – a cell phone, iPod touch or something else. And those kids got almost 21 minutes less sleep than those who didn’t have a small screen device nearby. The screen kids also went to bed 37 minutes, on average, later than those without the gadgets in their rooms.

Part of the problem is the notifications being emitted from the phones. If you’re constantly waiting for that next bit of information, you’re obviously not sleeping. A smartphone or tablet demands a lot of attention. The numbers are even worse than for kids who sleep in the same room as a TV, which is already known to be a no-no. Those children get 18 fewer minutes of sleep and have a 31-minute delayed bedtime.

83115983_yawning-kid_inside Inadequate sleep lead can lead to many problems, ranging from poor school performance to risk-taking behaviors to obesity, notes the study, which goes on to caution strongly against “unfettered access to screen-based media” in kids’ rooms. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends age-based limits with the overall proviso that kids spend no more than one to two hours a day on recreational screen time.

Jennifer Falbe, a public health researcher at the University of California, Berkeley and the study’s lead author, told CNN, “Set realistic but firm rules. For example, you can make sure electronic devices are off at least one hour before bedtime.”

One suggestion: Tell you child that it’s time to charge the phone. Put it in another room and leave it until morning. And parents, that’s not a bad suggestion for you, too.




School, Bored

Friday, February 20th, 2015


“I’m Bored;” the phrase that causes parents to tremble.

The statement comes with the implication that kids need to be entertained, and that we the parents are the entertainers. That’s a notion we need to dispel. Sometimes it’s good for our kids to be bored. It’s a simple problem solving exercise and gives them the opportunity to learn and discover play and activities by themselves. However, there is a time when parents really need to step it up and that is when your child says that she’s bored in school.

TEENS-HIGH-SCHOOL-BORED-960x540At some point, your child may either be ahead or behind everyone in her class. And whichever it is, boredom, disinterest and even an aversion to going to school can result.

If you notice your child isn’t liking school as much as he once did, it is important to find out why as soon as possible. Asking direct questions may not work, so try to catch your child off guard and ask less specific questions: Where you busy at school today? Did you have fun at recess? What was your favorite part of school that day? What was the least? Why?

If you discern that a bullying problem is behind your child’s sudden dislike of school, alert the school right away. But if it’s a case of indefinable ennui, it can be a little harder to diagnose. If your child isn’t keeping up academically, chances are you will know by her grades and from parent teacher conferences. Tutoring, after school clubs and some extra time with homework will help.

However, if your child isn’t challenged by the work, it may be harder to tell. They may have slipping grades or may be acting up. Take a look at any homework brought home. If it is done quickly, or the teacher mentions that work is done sloppily, take careful notice.

Set up a time to meet with the teachers and administrators. Your child may need to be more physically active, especially if they no longer have recess in middle school. Explore clubs and after school activities that offer enriching stimulation such as the chess or geography club. Talk with teachers and counselors and see if there is an advanced class that your child can move into. They may even be tested, but be sure that your child is on board for the challenge.

If an advanced class isn’t available, parents can enhance quickly finished homework with fun but educational products like BrainPop, Brainetics or Top Secret. These materials merge game-like fun with cool learning opportunities. Local museums and history centers may offer after school programs for kids that emphasize art, music or history or archeology. More than anything, you don’t want kids to think of school as too easy. It sets a standard for bad study habits, low expectations and possible poor performance when they are really challenged in high school and college. Boredom can be good for kids in our stressed out world, but school is the one place you don’t want that to happen.

Interested in reading more? Try “How to Deal with a Smart Disruptive School Kid” or “Smart and Bored.”