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The Big Screen Time Debate: How Much Is Enough?

The amount of screen time you should be allowing your little ones is a subject of much debate. It is also a subject that creates a lot of anxiety and shame for us mothers. When I was pregnant I vowed that my daughter would not get any screen time for the first few years but I realised very early on that a, it is impossible to keep  her away from a screen since screens are everywhere and b, a mother needs to allow a little screen time to keep her sanity. Yes, I am “that mom” that sometimes uses her TV as a babysitter.

But how much screen time is safe and what are the latest guidelines? I found the research on this quite interesting and I wanted to share this with you in my latest post.

WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL ABOUT SCREEN TIME?

There are many studies linking screen time with negative physical and psychosocial health in children. To date, excessive screen time has been linked with behavioural problems such as aggression and ADHD, anxiety and depression, sleep disturbances, poor language development and impaired vision.

The problem with this research is that the definition of ‘excessive’ varies between studies and it is also very difficult to measure when there are so many different types of screens (TVs, iPads, iPhones, laptops etc.) and content (video games, social media etc.) available.

WHAT ARE THE LATEST GUIDELINES?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is a pretty important public health agency so it would make sense to follow what they recommend with regards to screen time. Their latest guidelines were released earlier this year and stress the importance of physical activity, quality sedentary activities such as reading and puzzles, and good quality sleep in children under 5 years of age.

“Improving physical activity, reducing sedentary time and ensuring quality sleep in young children will improve their physical, mental health and wellbeing, and help prevent childhood obesity and associated diseases later in life” – Dr Fiona Bull (WHO)

The WHO hope that with these guidelines healthy habits can be established early on in children’s lives and translate through childhood, adolescence and into adulthood. Below are the WHO guidelines.

Children less than 1 year old should

  • Be physically active for at least 30 minutes several times a day through “interactive floor-based play”, including tummy time.
  • Not be restrained for more than one hour at a time (in a chair/seat and even on a caregiver’s back). When restrained they should get no screen time but instead be engaged in a quality sedentary activity such as reading.
  • Have 14-17 hours (0-3 months) or 12-16 hours (4-11 months) of good quality sleep a day. This includes naps.

Children aged 2-3 should

  • Be physically active for at least 180 minutes a day, spread throughout the day. This includes moderate-vigorous physical activity.
  • Not be restrained for more than one hour at a time (in a chair/seat and even on a caregiver’s back) or sit for extended periods at a time. For children younger than 2 years, screen time is not recommended. Once older than 2 years then no more than 1 hour should be allowed. When sedentary, rather engage in quality activities such as reading and puzzles.
  • Have 11-14 hours of good quality sleep a day. This includes naps.

Children aged 3-5 should

  • Be physically active for at least 180 minutes a day, with at least 60 minutes of moderate-vigorous physical activity, spread throughout the day.
  • Not be restrained for more than one hour at a time (in a chair/seat and even on a caregiver’s back) or sit for extended periods at a time. Children should have no more than 1 hour of screen time a day. When sedentary, rather engage in quality activities such as reading and puzzles.
  • Have 10-13 hours of good quality sleep a day. This includes naps.

In summary, the WHO do not recommend any screen time in children under 2 years and in children between 2 and 5 years of age only a maximum of 1 hour should be allowed.

Lets have a look at some other guidelines. Guidelines in Canada, Australia and South Africa also recommend no screen time in children under 2 and only up to 1 hour in children 2-5 years old.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend no screen time in children under 18 months. Children aged 18-24 months can be slowly introduced to screens but programs should be of high quality and parents always need to watch with their children. In children aged 2-5 years, screen time should be for a maximum of 1 hour only and parents should still co-view in order to help children understand what they are seeing.

In the UK things are a little different. The WHO recommendations are actually being challenged. I won’t get into the nitty gritty on what constitutes high quality research evidence but basically what the British are saying is that the evidence the WHO guidelines is based on is poor quality and therefore no conclusions can be made. There simply is not enough evidence to confirm that screen time itself is directly harmful to a child’s health at any age and therefore the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in the UK has said it is “impossible to recommend age-appropriate time limits” on screen time.

So now that we know there isn’t much evidence to support the dangers of screen time we can probably breathe a little easier and not feel so guilty the next time we put on Peppa Pig just so that we can enjoy a cup of coffee.

The WHO guidelines are not really based on what negative effects screen time has on the brain but rather based on what negative effects sitting in front of a screen has on a child’s life. Decide for yourself how much screen time is enough for your child. Do this based on their developmental age, individual needs and also on what you want for your family. Screen time should never replace opportunities for your child to learn or be active, it should not replace precious family time and most definitely not delay naps or bedtime. When it does, then it does become a risk to your child’s physical, mental health and wellbeing.

RESOURCES

https://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1&sid=353ab0ea-7687-415f-a529-3689514f0bc8%40sessionmgr101

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/904624

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/908312

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/913189

https://www.nhsggc.org.uk/about-us/professional-support-sites/screen-time/screen-time-guidelines/#

https://www.nhs.uk/news/pregnancy-and-child/who-guidelines-screen-time/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4851593/

https://www.wits.ac.za/news/latest-news/opinion/2019/2019-02/why-screen-time-needs-to-be-limited.html

https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/24-04-2019-to-grow-up-healthy-children-need-to-sit-less-and-play-more

Keeping Your Children Safe During Bath time

I’m sure many of you will agree that bath time is loads of fun for our kids. Whilst the bathroom is a fun place, it can also be a scary place with a number of dangerous hazards such as the drowning, burns and poisoning.

It’s important that you are always in the bathroom with your children before, during and after bath time. Drowning is a major cause of death in children under five years. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commision in the United States, 80% of the 87 children, under five years who drown at home each year, have drowned in the bathtub. Young children are top heavy and can slip suddenly and drown in very little water. Infants and toddlers also don’t have the upper body and core strength to lift themselves up if that slip under the water.

HOW TO RUN A BATH

  • Keep your child away from the bath until the water is the right temperature.
  • The safe temperature of bath water should be between 37oC and 38oC (36OC for a newborn). Children have thinner skin than adults so they can burn much more quickly. Even if the bath feels warm to you it may be hot to your little one. Your plumber can also set the thermostat of your geyser to a maximum of 50oC.
  • Always fill your bath with cold water first. Your child could put his hand or foot in the water before the bath is ready and get burnt. If you have a mixer tap, run hot and cold together but start with the cold and slowly increase the amount of hot.
  • Run cold water through the tap before your child gets into the bath to cool the tap and prevent them from getting burnt if they touch it.
  • If you have a mixer tap, point the lever on the cold setting when you are finished running the bath to ensure the hot water does not get accidentally turned on in the bath.
  • Do not overfill the bath. Fill the bath water to just over your little one’s knees.

HOW TO HAVE A S-A-F-E BATH

S: Supervision is key! Always supervise babies, toddlers and children less than six years in the bath and when you run the water. Never leave an older child to supervise.
A: Arrange everything you will need for bath time in advance for e.g. towel, soap, shampoo, nappy, clean clothes and any medications.
F: Feel the water with your elbow first. It should feel warm but not hot. You can also use a water thermometer. Remember to swirl the water around to ensure an even temperature with no hot pockets.
E: Empty the bath as soon as bath time is over.

SLIPS, TRIPS & FALLS

Slips, trips and falls in the bathtub and shower are a common cause of injury in young children and according to statistics more common than tub drownings.

Use a non-slip mat in the bath. If you are using a bath seat or ring, your child will still need to be supervised. A bath seat is not a safety device. These seats are actually associated with an increasing number of reported drownings. This is because the device gives parents a false sense of security and they are therefore more likely to leave their baby alone in the bath.

Infants should be bathed in the bathroom basin or a smaller infant bathtub. This way they can’t roll over or ever be completely covered by the water.

Wipe up any splashes before your kids get out the bath so that nobody, including you, can slip and hit their head. As your kids get older you should also teach them to remain seated in the bath and not to stand up and jump.

Be sure to keep a MiniKit in your bathroom for peace of mind. Each kit contains a range of thoughtfully selected first aid items geared towards common childhood injuries. You can purchase one here: https://www.oneaid.co.za/product/minikit/

WHEN CAN YOU STOP SUPERVISING YOUR CHILD IN THE BATH?

This is a difficult question to answer as children mature at different ages. Since most children who drown in bathtubs are under the age of five, the general consensus is children under the age of six should never be allowed to bath alone and even those over six should be closely monitored. Even if your child knows how to swim you should never be too far away.

OTHER BATHROOM HAZARDS

Toilet: luckily my daughter has never been interested in exploring the toilet bowl but I have had moms tell me how their child likes to play with the water in the toilet. Keep the toilet lids closed at all times and if your little one is particularly curious install a toilet-lid lock.

Appliances: make sure any electrical appliances in the bathroom are unplugged and out of reach when your child is having a bath. Regular plug sockets may actually not be fitted in bathrooms for safety reasons so rather keep extension cords out.

Medicines: many of us keep medication in the bathroom. Make sure they are all locked away, out of sight and out of reach.

Dangerous items: make sure you keep cosmetics, razor blades, nail scissors, cleaning products and other dangerous items away.

Don’t get distracted during bath time. Keep your phone on silent or rather keep it out of the bathroom and join in on the fun. You could also try having a shower with your child instead for some extra fun. My daughter loves this and the best part is that I manage to get cleaned up as well freeing up some time later in the evening for something else. Just make sure you get a slip-proof mat for the shower first.

RESOURCES

https://www.aappublications.org/news/2015/11/11/PPBath111115

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000154.htm

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19596735

https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/124/2/541.long

https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/100/4/e1.long?utm_source=TrendMD&utm_medium=TrendMD&utm_campaign=Pediatrics_TrendMD_0

Tips For Choosing The Right High Chair

Before going out and buying a high chair it’s important to know the safety requirements. A US study found that more than 9 400 children, aging three years and younger, were treated each year for high chair related injuries in emergency rooms from 2003 to 2010. That’s one child every hour!

Nearly all of these injuries were as a result of a fall where the child either climbed in or out of the chair or stood in it. Majority of the injuries seen were head injuries (37%) then bumps and bruises (33%) followed by lacerations (19%). Most of us use our high chairs in the dining room or kitchen where the flooring is usually hard, so you can imagine the impact this has on a small brain.

This has prompted the US to update their safety standards (unfortunately there are no available statistics for South Africa). From mid-2019 all high chairs in the US will have to have a passive crotch restraint and a three-point restraint system, which means there has to be a fixed post that sits between a child’s legs and restraints that are fixed to the high chair in three different places. They found that children were able to slip out the bottom of a high chair and hope a fixed post will prevent this.

High chairs are not recommended for children younger than 6 months of age. A child is only ready for a chair once they have good head and neck control and are able to sit up on their own. If one is used too early a child could experience positional asphyxia. You may however, be able to start a little sooner with a reclining high chair (see my previous blog, ‘How safe is your car seat?’). https://www.oneaid.co.za/how-safe-is-your-car-seat/

CHOOSING THE RIGHT HIGH CHAIR

Framework: choose a high chair that is sturdy. Put some weight on it and see if it squeaks, deforms or moves or collapses.

Gaps: make sure there are no gaps your child can slip out of. Also check for gaps that little fingers can get caught in.

Harness: choose a high chair with either a three-point or five-point harness that includes a crotch strap or a post. The restraint should go over the shoulders, around the waist and if a five-point harness then between the legs.  

Wide base: a high chair becomes top heavy when your child is in. Choosing a chair with a wide base will make it more stable so that it does not tip easily.

Wheels: if you choose a high chair with wheels, make sure they can be locked when the chair is in use.

Folding locks: if the high chair folds check that the locks work well enough so that the chair cannot fall or collapse when in use.

Joints: choose a high chair with metal joints. These are stronger than plastic, which can crack after time.

Safety standards: make sure the high chair meets current safety standards and has been approved by an international safety authority.

BOOSTER SEATS AND HOOK-ON SEATS

Please be careful when you use these chairs. If not used correctly these seats can be dangerous.

Hook-on seat: These chairs are mounted directly onto a table and should only be used once your baby has good head and neck control and can sit upright. The mounts must be slip resistant and because this seat carries the entire weight of your baby the table has to be strong so that it does not tip over.

Booster seat: These seats are attached to normals chair by straps to raise a child’s height. They are usually used when a child has outgrown the high chair but is not quite tall enough to sit at the table unaided. They should also have straps to keep your child in the seat.

KEEPING YOUR CHILD SAFE IN A HIGH CHAIR

  • Never leave your child unsupervised when they are in a high chair.
  • Always use the safety straps when your child sits in the chair, even if only for a few minutes. The tray is not a restraint.
  • If the chair folds, make sure it is locked each time you set the chair up.
  • If the chair has wheels, make sure they are locked each time you set the chair up.
  • Never allow your child to stand in the high chair.
  • Do not place the high chair near a counter or table. Your child may be able to push against the surface and cause the chair to tip over.
  • Don’t allow older children to climb or play on the high chair while another child is seated in it because it could tip over.
  • Position the high chair at its lowest possible height if this is adjustable.
  • Make sure potential hazards such as hot food, drink and sharp cutlery are out of reach.

When choosing a high chair opt for an age-appropriate one with plenty of safety features. It’s also important to check often for recalls once you have purchased your chair. High chairs are commonly recalled because of their safety issues. Recent recalls include the Skip Hop Tuo convertible high chair and the Graco Table2Table 6-in-1. You can check http://www.recalls.gov to see if your high chair has been recalled.

RESOURCES

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0009922813510599

http:// https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/newsroom/news-releases/2013/12/new-study-finds-24-children-a-day-are-treated-in-us-emergency-departments-for-high-chair-related

Keep Your Swimming Pool Safe This Summer

South Africa has updated its pool safety regulations this year and now all private swimming pools not only need to be fenced off, but they also need to be fitted with either a pool cover or safety net when not in use. The new regulations form part of the SANS 10134 which is a SABS standard for the safeness of private swimming pools.

Lets take a look at the regulations and some additional measures that can be taken to safetyproof your swimming pool. No single safety measure is foolproof therefore its better to rather use as many as you can together.

SAFETY MEASURES

1. Swimming Pool Fence

According to the South Africa Bureau of standards (SABS) a fence must surround a body of water that holds more than 30 cm of water.

The fence gate must be self-closing and self-locking. The fence must be at least 1.2m high and sunk into the ground by at least 50cm. The vertical slats should be no more than 100mm apart.

Children should not be able to climb over or through the fence and should not be able to open the gates themselves.

2. Swimming Pool Cover

The SA safety standard also requires a swimming that holds more than 30cm of water to be covered by a cover or safety net. DIY installed nets are no longer allowed. An “accredited responsible party” must professionally install a cover and a cover is not approved if a child can unfasten it.

If your pool is small (less than 2.4m at the widest point) the cover must be able to hold the weight of one adult and one child. If you have a larger pool then the cover must hold the weight of two adults and one child in case the first adult falls into the pool during a rescue mission.

3. Swimming Pool Alarm

A swimming pool alarm is an additional safety measure you can have installed. Detectors with sensors that extend into the water are mounted onto the sides of the pool. You can also get free floating alarms. Waves form on the pool surface when a child comes into contact with the water, which triggers these alarms.

Aquawatch pool alarm

Lifebuoy alarm

 

 

 

 

 

You can also have a pool alarm installed on the swimming pool gate, which is activated when the gate is opened.

4. Swimming Pool Chemicals

Make sure all pool chemicals are locked away out of sight and out of reach. Children may mistakenly drink these and contact with the skin can cause chemical burns.

DO NOT FORGET

  • The same rules apply to water features and fishponds. Cover these with safety nets as children can drown in as little as 2.5cm of water.
  • It’s also a good idea to keep the pool brush or net nearby. The pole can be used to help someone in the water if needed.
  • Regularly inspect your safety measures. It’s not uncommon for dogs to chew the safety nets causing them to become lax and ineffective.
  • There are many different products and brands available. Make sure whatever you choose is SABS approved.

RESOURCES

Intemark (2018) Aquawatch Pool Alarms. [image] Available from: http://intemark.co.za/Aquawatch/ [Accessed 18 October 2018].

Lifebuoy (2018) Lifebuoy features. [image] Available from: https://www.lifebuoyalarm.com [Accessed 18 October 2018].

SABS (2015) The safeness of private swimming pools [online]. Available from: https://store.sabs.co.za/catalog/product/view/_ignore_category/1/id/218720/s/sans-10134-2008-ed-1-02/ [Accessed 18 October 2018].

Safepool (n.d.) Swimming pool by laws in South Africa [online]. Available from: http://safepool.co.za/swimming-pool-fence-by-laws-in-south-africa/ [Accessed 18 October 2018].

de Wet, P. (2018) These are the new safety standards for private swimming pools – and a fence is no longer good enough. Business Insider South Africa, [online] pp. https://www.businessinsider.co.za/private-swimming-pool-standard-sans-10134-mandatory-safety-net-to-prevent-drowning-2018-7 [Accessed 18 October 2018].

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