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Expert Tips with Dr. Jenny Radesky

Hello Families!

After such a difficult year, I hope the summer has brought some rest and joy to your family. As an author of the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for media use in early childhood, I’ve been thinking a lot about what this pandemic has taught us about kids’ relationships with technology. It can seem overwhelming to manage the enormous and fast-paced digital world available to kids, so here are a few simple ideas below to consider as you try to strike a healthy balance.

Like everything in parenting, the goal isn’t to be perfect; it’s to provide structure and communication so that you and your child can learn and make changes over time.

Jenny Radesky, MD

Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Michigan Medical School
Researcher on digital media, kids, and families​
Mom of Two (ages 11 and 7)​

Media as a Launchpad for Play and Connection

1

Be choosy about content.

There are literally millions of apps, videos, and games vying for your kids’ attention, and many aren’t that enriching (or they’re packed with ads and in-app purchases). I tell families to go to trusted names – such as Noggin – where you know that experts in learning and child development, who really understand kids, are behind the scenes. I also use Common Sense Media (commonsensemedia.org) for ratings, reviews, and to keep up on new trends.

2

Enter their digital world.

I know it’s such a relief to let your child watch or play on their own, but diving into their show or game together lets you 1) have fun, 2) detect icky/sassy stuff that you’d rather them avoid, and 3) help them transfer off of screens. Try watching just the last five minutes of a show, and then suggesting an activity related to what your child just saw: Can we pretend to be Marshall and Skye, snuggle and read in a big chair like Josh and Blue, or sing or draw something that was in the show?

3

Set boundaries around sleep and emotions.

Learning to calm your mind and body is a key challenge of early childhood, and it can be tempting to use screens to quiet kids from the outside rather than helping them learn how to calm down from the inside. Instead, do activities and read stories about emotions to teach kids how to handle real-life moments with big feelings. BigHeartWorld.org and Wideopenschool.org have links to thoughtful activities that teach emotional well-being.

4

Remember that kids learn by observing and doing.

If you want kids to use media to connect and create (not just consume), schedule a regular video chat with loved ones, and try activity-based apps with options such as painting and drawing. If you want kids to prioritize the people around them over the screen in their hands, make sure you do the same! I know it’s hard, but try to limit the time your kids see you using tech.

Hello Families!

I am excited to write the first installment of Noggin’s Summer Play List series! As our kids wrap up this unprecedented school year and we parents yearn for a break, let’s talk about summer travel: How can we come out of summer trips feeling re-energized and centered? How will our kids handle venturing out of their comfort zones of home? We all may be rusty at this, so here are a few ideas for making summer travel fun, manageable, and a vacation we all deserve.

Summer travel provides kids a chance to stretch their minds and bodies, experience new places and communities, and connect with family. This is especially important now. Use this time to tell each other new stories about this challenging year, listen to each other, and find calm.​

Take care of yourselves, and safe travels!​

Jenny Radesky, MD

Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Michigan Medical School
Researcher on digital media, kids, and families​
Mom of Two (ages 11 and 7)​

Making Summer Travel Fun

1

Practice being flexible and patient.

Travel often contains unexpected detours or waiting periods. Changing COVID-related guidelines means that families will need to adapt at the last minute. Let your kids know when you see them being patient, flexible, and caring. Bring some extra coloring books, download extra podcasts on Noggin, and remind kids to deep-breathe and use positive self-talk (like “we can do this”) when you see their engine running a little hot.

2

Prioritize sun and water rules.

We’ve all let rules slide this year, but sun and water are two places where I try to stay on top of things. Childhood sunburns increase skin cancer risk, and unfortunately, drowning incidents are still too common. Your kids may be ready to burst out the door and get to the beach, but have a system where you put on their sun shirt, hat, and sunscreen before heading out the door. If your kids have sensitive skin, zinc-based sunscreens are a good alternative. Additionally, an attentive grown-up needs to go with kids to the pool, lake, or beach. Make it fun with a pre-beach checklist (like you’re a pilot planning for takeoff)!

3

Put screens in their place.

I’ve never spent so much time looking at a computer screen as I have this year! Kids, too, have used technology for school, seeing family members, and keeping occupied while parents work. Being on vacation is a great opportunity to improve everyone’s screen habits. Bring screens for long car rides or flights, but then put them out of sight when you want your kids to focus on the people or nature around them. Make a scheduled time to watch something positive, perhaps in the middle of the day when the sun is hottest, or watch movies altogether.

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