Protecting Our Kids’ Health and Our Own: Suggestions and Solutions.

Protecting kid’s general health (AAP Recommendations)

  • Avoid any and all screen time, except video calling, for children under 24 months.

  • For children 2 to 5 years of age, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programming, coview with your children, help children understand what they are seeing, and help them apply what they learn to the world around them.

  • Avoid fast-paced programs (young children do not understand them as well), apps with lots of distracting content, and any violent content.

  • Turn off televisions and other devices when not in use.

  • Avoid using media as the only way to calm your child. Although there are intermittent times (eg, medical procedures, airplane flights) when media is useful as a soothing strategy, there is concern that using media as a strategy to calm could lead to problems with limit setting or the inability of children to develop their own emotion regulation. Ask your pediatrician for help, if needed.

  • Monitor children’s media content and what apps are used or downloaded. Test apps before the child uses them, play together, and ask the child what he or she thinks about the app.

  • Keep bedrooms, mealtimes, and parent–child playtimes screen free for children and parents. Parents can set a “do not disturb” option on their phones during these times.

  • Avoid screens 1 hour before bedtime, and remove devices from bedrooms before bed.

TLO Recommendations for Protecting Your Brain

  • Talk to your kids about their brains and the research. Explain to them how important it is to have a strong memory and sustained attention span. Ask them to make suggestions.

  • As stated about, The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends powering down at least 1-2 hours before bed to protect sleep and to ensure your teen is getting the break they need from the pressure to be connected. Help your student prioritize homework so online homework is done first. Support your student by setting the expectation with teachers that your child will complete homework on paper if it’s too late to be online. You have the right to “opt out” of online work in support of your child’s physical health.

  • Use Your Head. Retrieve information from your brain organically rather than automatically Googling it. Sit there and concentrate until you can recall it.

  • Crack Open a Book. That’s right. As we have shared in our Learning section, reading an actual book rather than a tablet has been shown to improve memory comprehension and retention.

  • Learn a new language. The next time your kids are complaining about Spanish class, remind them that putting themselves outside their comfort zone helps their brains work harder, which makes them smarter. This is true of any subject your child finds difficult, like math. Encourage them to stick with it. If they get frustrated, don’t give them the answer. Help them persevere.

  • Play a new instrument. Instruments require the use of both side of the brains which help strengthen and balance it. It’s no accident that middle school is the best time to learn how to play an instrument.

  • Get physical. Physical exercise increases blood flow and accelerates the transport of vital nutrients to your brain.

  • Use it or Lose it. Although it’s not easy or ideal for most of us who are plugged in due to online school work, our jobs and the needs of the modern world, we should, at the very least, unplug during the weekend. Work can - and should - wait. Social Media can wait. If we focus instead on having real conversations, reading books, getting out into nature, and disconnecting from technology, we will be taking care of our brain health and our emotional health as well.

  • Avoid multitasking and set the expectation with others that this is not something you do. With the advent of smartphones, we are now always available and that’s not good for our brains. Explain to your friends and family that you will not answer their calls, texts or emails if you are doing something else and that they will have to wait. Encourage your kids to do the same. And then follow through. Do some of the things mentioned above and spend time with your family uninterrupted. It’s not only good manners, it’s good for your brain.

  • Joshua Rubinstein, PhD, of the Federal Aviation Administration, has proposed new models of cognitive control based on a research study conducted. The first, called goal shifting, involves choosing to switch to a new task. The second, rule activation, requires the brain to turn off the cognitive rules of the old task and turn on the cognitive rules of the new task. For example, a student who has completed her math homework and is ready to begin her English homework must first decide that she is done with math and ready to begin English (goal shifting) and then turn off the rules of addition and multiplication and activate the rules for reading a story (rule activation). This kind of thinking is similar to mindfulness.

  • Set up blocks of time to complete different tasks and don’t let yourself be distracted by other tasks. For example, designate blocks of time to check email, text and write reports. Set a timer and commit to one task at a time, when the scheduled time is up, take a short break before committing to another tasks. If you get distracted, use mindfulness to bring yourself back to the task at hand.

  • Implement a Power Hour - Most research recommends sustaining attention for 20 minute blocks. Here is Concord, most teachers recommend 20 minutes per subject for homework in middle school. The “Power Hour” idea is similar to the idea above but a bit more specific. Find a space that is completely free of distractions, block the time in your calendar, if necessary. Turn off your phone and shut down email. Take out the work you need to complete and only that work. For twenty minutes, focus entirely on the task at hand. Do not allow yourself to be distracted. After twenty minutes, take a 5 minute break to stretch, walk around, take a quick walk, focus on your breath. Then focus on the task for another 20 minutes. Repeat the break. Repeat the focused work. Take a longer break of 10-15 minutes to do something unrelated to work.

  • Keep a notepad and pen on the table while you focus on one task, so you can jot down any distractions to followup on later. Or trust and tell yourself you will remember it later.

  • Be bored. I often tell my kids, “You’re bored? Oh good. Being bored is part of childhood.” Embracing boredom facilitates creativity as well as deep thinking, resilience and patience. Many parents will respond to the “I’m bored” comment with “Go outside” or worse, “Go clean your room.”

  • In Gift of the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh says, “…there is a quality to being alone that is incredibly precious. Life rushes back into the void, richer, more vivid, fuller than before.” She suggests that being alone and the creativity of daydreaming “demand something of oneself and (feed) the inner life.” We are seldom alone or quiet and no longer embrace solitude. But doing so brings us inner peace to be strong in our external world. We must relearn this.


protecting your eye health

In addition to eyewear solutions, other ways to relieve digital eye strain include:

  • Take frequent breaks from using digital devices

  • Reduce overhead lighting to eliminate screen glare

  • Position yourself at arm's distance away from the screen for proper viewing distance when at a computer

  • Increase text size on devices to better define content on the screen

  • Limit time spent continuously in front of a computer. Look away from the screen every 20 minutes for 20 seconds, the AOA recommends. For the ideal viewing distance, set your monitor about 20-28 inches away from your body.

  • Adjust the top of your monitor at eye level, so you’re looking down at the screen by 10°-20° (4-5 inches). That way you’ll avoid nodding your head up and down, causing neck and back strain. Laptops, especially, need to be raised to that sweet spot where your eyes are looking down slightly.

  • Lighting above your head should be dim. The areas within your line of view, the wall in front of you, for example, should be as bright as your computer screen. Avoid sitting in front of an un-shaded window or with one behind you.

Protecting Yourself from Exposure to Wireless Radiation

  • Use text messaging when possible, and use cell phones in speaker mode or with the use of hands-free kits.

  • When talking on a cell phone, try holding it an inch or more away from your head.

  • Make only short or essential calls on cell phones.

  • Avoid carrying your phone against the body like in a pocket, sock, or bra. Cell phone manufacturers can't guarantee that the amount of radiation you're absorbing will be at a safe level.

  • Avoid talking on the phone or text while driving. This increases the risk of automobile crashes.

  • Exercise caution when using a phone or texting while walking or performing other activities. "Distracted walking" injuries are also on the rise.

  • If you plan to watch a movie on your device, download it first, then switch to airplane mode while you watch in order to avoid unnecessary radiation exposure.

  • Keep an eye on your signal strength (i.e. how many bars you have). The weaker your cell signal, the harder your phone has to work and the more radiation it gives off. It's better to wait until you have a stronger signal before using your device.

  • Avoid making calls in cars, elevators, trains, and buses. The cell phone works harder to get a signal through metal, so the power level increases.

  • Remember that cell phones are not toys or teething items.

    TLO Suggestions

  • Teach your children - and lead by example - that laptops, iPads and other devices are only to be used on a surface and not on their laps.

  • Make sure children do not sleep with their smartphones or other devices.

  • Utilize Airplane Mode as often as possible to reduce radiation exposure.

  • Turn off WiFi at night.