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How Smartphones Are Affecting The Mind And Body Of Your Children

How Smartphones Are Affecting The Mind And Body Of Your Children

If you’re a parent of young children living in the mobile internet era, it’s hard to resist not handing over a smartphone or a tablet to keep kids entertained when you really need them to be the sweet, quiet little angels you wish that they could be pretty much all the time. There are all sorts of great video and gaming apps designed for kids anyway, so why not?

It’s not the kid-friendly content you have to worry about – it’s the effect of excessive amounts of screen time your kids are being exposed to on a regular basis. The younger they are while their brains are developing rapidly, the more adverse the effects may be. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents of infants and children under the age of two should avoid exposing them to smartphones, tablets, computers, televisions and anything else that serves to entertain people through a screen.

Children who are older may benefit from apps and mobile websites that promote learning, but there’s no question that frequent and prolonged use of mobile devices may create problems in normal, healthy development and everyday habits. Here are some of the things you need to be aware of if you’re a parent who lets their kids play with smartphones or tablets.

They contribute to sleep deprivation.

Any form of media that has a screen emits blue light that tends to mimic daylight in a way that confuses our internal body clocks. Both children and adults rely on their circadian rhythms to regulate their sleep cycles, but when their eyes are exposed to this blue light too late in the evening or at night, it sends a signal to the brain that it’s daytime and that it’s time to stay awake. One study found that infants and toddlers who watched TV were more likely to experience irregular sleep patterns.

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If your child has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, make sure you enforce a strict cut-off time for smartphones and other media anywhere from 1 to 3 hours before bedtime. Instead, use this time to read a book to your child or have them read it to you aloud.

They promote sedentary behavior, which contributes to obesity.

Using a smartphone, a tablet or any other form of screen media generally requires a lot of sitting in order to pay attention to it. All children are energetic and have a natural urge to run, jump, skip, climb, dance and play, which helps them develop a strong and healthy heart, lungs, bones, muscles and brain. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says that children and adolescents require a minimum of one hour of physical activity every day, and that one-hour minimum should involve moderate-intensity to vigorous-intensity activity.

To keep your kids from spending excessive amounts of time hanging around the house with nothing to do but sit around and entertain themselves with mobile devices, try enrolling them in extra-curricular activities like gymnastics, swimming, baseball or soccer to encourage them to get moving. Or to save some money, you could even just make a habit out of taking regular trips to the park, setting up a swing set in the backyard, scheduling regular play dates with friends or getting your kids to help out with chores around the house.

They can cause eye discomfort.

Although it’s not currently yet known whether staring at screens for long periods of time can cause any permanent damage to the eyes, it certainly is known to cause discomfort. Both children and adults can experience it, but children may be more susceptible to developing symptoms depending on the unique ways that they use their devices. Commonly referred to as “digital eye strain,” symptoms usually include pain, fatigue, blurred vision, headaches and dry eyes.

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In addition to simply reducing the amount of time that kids spend looking at the screens of smartphones and other electronics devices, parents should take care to schedule annual eye examinations for their kids, teach them to position devices at an appropriate distance from their faces when using them, adjust the brightness of devices and instruct them to take breaks every 10 to 20 minutes that they’ve been staring at devices.

They can cause aches and pains in the neck, shoulders, back, hands, thumbs and other parts of the body.

Smartphone use forces people to tilt their heads down to look at them while moving their wrists and fingers in unnatural ways. Doing this frequently and for prolonged periods can cause pain and even permanent damage to bones and joints in the upper part of the body – especially the neck and spine. According to one leading Australian chiropractor interviewed by The Daily Mail Australia, an increasing number of children and teens are becoming hunchbacks because of their smartphone addictions.

The damage can be worsened by a sedentary lifestyle, so parents should encourage their kids to take frequent breaks and get physically active on a daily basis. It’s also worth talking to kids about the importance of proper body positioning when using their mobile devices and showing them how to lift their devices up higher to promote a more straightforward gaze. Parents can even just tell their kids to use their eyes to focus their gaze downward at the screen as a simple solution to minimizing the need to tilt their heads so much.

They may contribute to shortened attention spans.

Less than 5 percent of children in the U.S. were thought to have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) before the early 1990s, but in the following two decades since then, that figure has ballooned to 11 percent, according to the CDC in a report from the New York Times. The rapid increase likely has to do with sociological changes, including how kids use the internet and mobile devices for both educational and leisurely purposes.

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Medication can be used to treat children who’ve been diagnosed with ADHD, but even kids who don’t show any signs of the disorder should have strict limitations set by their parents for use of mobile devices. It’s good practice to avoid handing your kids a mobile device to quiet them down and distract them any time they act up. It may be pretty unpleasant to deal with, but focusing on teaching your kids to behave appropriately without technological distraction is far healthier for them in the long run.

They may inhibit the development of social skills.

The American Psychological Association has pointed out that there are currently very few studies and inconsistent findings regarding whether screen time negatively affects children’s social skills. But that’s not to say that it definitely doesn’t play a role. After all, more time spent looking at a mobile device means less time interacting face to face with friends and adults. A UCLA study discovered that overuse of mobile devices among sixth graders had numbed their ability to read human emotions.

In many ways, mobile devices can actually promote good social skills through communication platforms like instant messaging and social media – although not face to face, it can still have a positive impact on children who use it appropriately to support their in-person relationships. Still, parents should monitor their kids’ social behavior and consider talking to them if they suspect a lack of interest in spending time with friends, problems associated with bullying or odd behavior that negatively affects social interaction and relationship building.

They may contribute to higher levels of anxiety and depression.

Children who are old enough to use smartphones and tablets to connect with friends on social networking platforms may be negatively affected by the things that they see and experience. Since they’re still learning about the world around them and where they fit in, it’s common for children to use social media to compare themselves to their friends, invest a lot of energy into posting to impress others, and even worry about getting enough likes or comments.

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A study from the British Psychological Society found that the pressure for teens to be available on social media 24 hours a day and seven days a week was attributed to low self-esteem, poor sleep quality, anxiety and depression.

If you’re a parent of a particularly young child, you should have direct access to their social media accounts and limit the amount of time they can use them from a mobile device. All parents of children and teens should enforce rules about using privacy settings, treating others with respect at all times, and requiring any forms of harassment or cyberbullying to be brought to a parent or teacher’s attention. It’s also worth having regular discussions about the reality of social media so that kids can gain a clearer understanding of how it doesn’t necessarily reflect people’s real lives, and how certain forms of activity can lead to bad consequences.

They may impair brain structure and function.

Numerous studies have shown that excessive amounts of screen time damages the brain by causing gray matter atrophy, compromising white matter integrity, reducing cortical thickness, impairing cognitive functioning and debilitating dopamine function. A lot of the damage occurs in the frontal lobe part of the brain, which undergoes the most drastic changes in the early teen years to mid-twenties, and can affect everything from a person’s relationship building skills to their overall sense of well being. Even children who aren’t technically “addicted” to mobile devices are at risk of suffering damage to their developing brains if they’re regular users who spend several hours a day using them.

It’s time to take screen time limits seriously. According to integrative psychiatrist Dr. Dunckley, parents can eliminate their children’s risk of impaired brain structure and function by limiting screen time to two hours or less a day. She suggests that parents get their kids to do an electronic “fast” or “detox” lasting about 3 to 4 weeks as a way to reset the brain as opposed to moderately scaling back.

Smartphones have essentially changed the world as we know it, and even as adults, we need to be careful with how we use them. Children, however, are much more susceptible to experiencing more problems. Parents should educate themselves on best practices related to kids and mobile device use, stay conscious of their kids’ habits and work with them find the right balance in using them.

Featured photo credit: Randen Pederson via flickr.com

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Elise Moreau

Elise helps desk workers lead healthier lifestyles. Visit her website on her profile to get a free list of health hacks.

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Published on June 24, 2020

How to Be a Successful And Happy Stay at Home Mom

How to Be a Successful And Happy Stay at Home Mom

I can’t think of a more rewarding job, nor a more challenging one than being a Stay-at-Home-Mom (SAHM)! There is no shortage of opinion, however, as to the pros and cons of going on active duty until your kid/s turns 18 and flies off to college.

When you choose a career such as this, you’re in it for the long haul. But by the end of your journey, you’ll be decorated with every possible medal of honor. And may I say, indisputably deserved.

Think about it: a SAHM is a queen. She has one of the most important jobs of all—managing the castle, all that it entails, and its inhabitants.

For most of you, your home is your castle. It is where your most valuable possessions reside—your loved ones, your pets, your memories, and the special items you’ve collected over the years. It is where you feel comfortable, uninhibited, and free to be yourself. It is where you dine, sleep, and relax. It is everything!

Being the queen of your castle is like being the president. What other position carries as much clout other than being the president?

Taking care of that castle and its occupants is no easy task; it is a highly-ranked position that deserves every available merit.

Yes, staying at home can be a big decision, especially if you have a career and have been used to praise, socialization, and a regular paycheck. You might even think that if you decide to stay home, it is a “step down,” a demotion of sorts. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Why Being a Stay-at-Home Mom Is an Important Career

Being a SAHM requires wearing a litany of hats. You’re a full-time babysitter, a Lyft driver without tips or 5-star ratings, a nurse, a chef, a behavioral therapist, and most importantly, a teacher.

Teachable moments abound. You get to teach your children all the important things you want them to learn. Sure, there are no days off or summer vacations in store for decades, depending on the age of your little one/s, but imagine what amazing human beings you are helping to create!

Being stellar SAHMs are big shoes to fill. Not just anyone is up to the task; not everyone has the patience or the stamina it requires. Think triathlon here, but more—much more.

To put it simply, being a SAHM is one of the most important careers in the world. Let’s take a look at why this is so.

1. Your Child Is Always With Someone Who Loves Them

When your children are home with you, they are loved 24/7. They are happy and comforted.

In a daycare facility, the most important person in your life will be with someone who is just doing their job. They’re there for the paycheck, not because they love your child.

As you know, there are good and bad employees. You won’t necessarily know if your child is with a great employee or with one who is half paying attention to one of the most highly-treasured people in your life.

2. You Don’t Have to Deal With Office Stress and Deadlines

Working outside of your castle generally demands that you be present wherever it is you work—a hospital, a warehouse, a car dealership, an office, etc.,—when they want you to be there.

There are petty fights, nasty gossip, stressful projects, bad bosses, jealous co-workers, etc. You might often find yourself looking at the clock and waiting for the weekend.

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If you’re a SAHM, you make the rules! That alone should cause you great joy.

3. You Get to Witness Each of Your Child’s Milestones Firsthand

Think about how many milestones working moms miss. As a SAHM, you get to be there. You get to take those pictures, those videos, and see your little one grow up—in person, not via Nanny Cam! And if you’re children are middle-school-age and older, you get to keep an eye on them when they get home from school.

In an article in the American Journal of Nursing Science, it states that:[1]

“Economic and social pressures are forcing more parents into the workplace at a time when children appear to most need adult guidance and supervision. These children, in turn, face a growing number of problems such as physical and sexual abuse, crime and delinquency, depression and suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, emotional and behavioral problems, learning difficulties, school attendance problems, domestic violence, pregnancy, abortion, and venereal disease.

Many “latchkey” children experience stressful and even dangerous situations without ready access to adult guidance and support. It is estimated that as many as 10 million children care for themselves before or after school. Many latchkey kids begin their self-care responsibilities at about 8 years of age.”

4. Your Child Gets to Grow Up in Their Castle With a Queen Who Loves Them

When you’re home with your child, you provide love and comfort. That makes for a happy child and eventually, a happy adult. True, some adults were raised with their queen and don’t fare well, but in those rare cases, there are other factors involved, too numerous to list here.

In general, children do better when they know they are loved and cared for. And for children, the presence that would create stability and warm-fuzzy feelings is Mom!

5. Your Child Will Grow Up Feeling Happy, Safe, and Secure

Personally, I grew up with a SAHM. My mom was always around. We knew we could count on her for anything. She’d keep the house clean, cook great meals, and take us swimming in the summers.

I have very happy memories. I always felt secure and loved. And when my dad would get home after work, the family was complete. Fun times! If you are a good, caring mom, the best gift you can give your children is YOU!

Creating happy children is one of the biggest successes you can experience.

6. Your Child’s School Performance Will Improve

Research shows that there are excellent benefits to children staying at home, such as an increase in school performance. Those benefits extend way beyond the early years of that child’s life.

Did you know that homeschoolers generally score 15 to 30% points above public school students on a standardized test?

In the article, Does Being a Stay at Home Home Benefit Your Kids?, it states:[2]

“A British study in the ‘Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health’ reported that children of stay-at home-mothers are more likely to participate in organized sports than those whose mothers worked, possibly because their mothers had more time to take them to sports practices.

Other studies have found that children of stay-at-home moms were exposed to fewer germs and suffered from fewer illnesses. In addition, stay-at-home moms can have more time to prepare healthier foods and they rely less on convenience foods, partially for financial reasons.”

It’s Normal to Feel Iffy at First

Even after having read the six above-mentioned amazing reasons to stay at home, you might still feel iffy about it. Not because you don’t love your children but because you feel you will lose yourself—your identity.

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It’s understandable to feel that way. Shifting your perspective is key here. Staying at home doesn’t have to go hand-in-hand with losing your identity. You simply add to it; it’s another layer, another facet of who you are.

In the beginning, you may need to make some adjustments, but isn’t life, in general, an adjustment? Things are happening every day that oblige us to change course and go with the flow.

How to Be a Successful Stay-at-Home Mom

If you decide, that yes, you are going to stay home with your child but aren’t sure how to navigate the new waters without completely losing yourself, allow me to offer you some ideas that will make your experience an exceptionally happy one.

By following through with the suggestions below, you will feel successful, happy, and ready to tackle anything that comes your way.

Here are some tips on how to be a successful stay-at-home mom:

1. Wake Up Early!

Some SAHMs complain that they don’t have enough time for themselves. Valid point. Try getting up early, before the kids do.[3] This is the first thing that you should keep in mind if you want to be a successful stay-at-home mom.

Being up before everyone else offers you alone time to get some personal things done. The house is quiet and peaceful—the perfect setting to do what you need to do. That could be taking an uninterrupted warm shower, reading passages from your favorite book, having a cup of coffee while streaming one of your favorite shows or movies, writing emails, etc.

Waking up early offers you many opportunities to do what you need to do so that you don’t feel as though you’re missing out.

2. Dress Up!

No, I don’t mean dress up like you’re going out dancing, but you don’t have to be in your pajamas or sweats all day, either. How you dress makes a difference in your mood—on how you feel. So, dress casually but nicely.

In an article by Corina, How to be a Stylish Stay at Home Mom Without Compromising Comfort, she writes, “You don’t need a ton of clothes! Stick with what fits you well and makes you feel pretty without much fuss.”[4]

You can be at home and still dress to impress. You will feel so much better about yourself.

3. Exercise and Have Fun With Your Kids!

Taking care of your little ones doesn’t mean you give up on yourself. Take some time during the day to exercise. It will keep you strong, toned, and happy.

Have the children join you, and make it amusing by playing some fun workout music. They’ll use up a lot of energy and enjoy the time with you simultaneously.

Here’s an example of a mom who’s having a lot of fun with her kids as well as entertaining her audience. Watch Sophie Ellis-Bextor on YouTube.[5]

What a fun thing to do with your kids!

4. Schedule Weekly Outings!

To add excitement to your week, plan a weekly outing to the zoo, the botanical gardens, the library, the park, etc.

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Of course, at this point, the outings depend on personal safety and each state’s guidelines, so you’ll have to check on that. But bike rides around the neighborhood and picnics will work just as well.

If it’s too difficult to get out for whatever reason, there are many fun things you can do at home, pandemic or not. You can schedule a Stay At Home FUN DAY! Making a fun environment for your children is important in being a successful stay-at-home mom.

In an article by Andrea Browne Taylor, 16 Free or Cheap Things to Do With Your Kids During the COVID-19 Pandemic, she lists many activities to do with your kids.[6] Even I want to do these!

5. Establish a Break

During the day, it’s important to set aside some time to do something quiet; perhaps set aside 20-30 minutes to read, color, etc.

During this break, each person can do something they personally enjoy. Encourage your kids to get creative. Research shows that creative activities, such as art, are wonderful for children.

In her article, Why Art and Creativity are Important, Paula Bernstein states,[7]

“Fostering creativity won’t just increase your child’s chances of becoming the next Picasso. You’re also helping him develop mentally, socially, and emotionally, says Ecklund-Flores.”

And for you, pick up that hobby you put on the back burner. Whether it is painting, crocheting, knitting, writing, whatever, use that time to get some creative YOU time in! You are going to feel so much happier and accomplished afterward.

6. Make Your Castle a Beautiful Living Space!

Decorate your home in a way that is soothing to you. Choose the colors, the decor, the furniture, the pictures, the artwork, the plants, etc. that make you feel at peace in your own castle.

Play music that is both calming and energizing. Living in a space you love and find comforting makes all the difference in the world. If you create a happy environment, you’ll feel happier, and so will your children.

For ways to make your home a happier place, check out Olivia Heath’s article, 8 ways to make your home a happier place.[8]

7. Set Up a Routine!

Most people respond well to a routine. For instance, from 8 – 9, breakfast and cartoons; from 9 – 12. chores and homework; from 12 – 1:00 p.m., lunch. After that, nap time, if appropriate, or personal time.

The routine, of course, will be based on the age of your children and your own personal views. According to a Skilled at Life article:

Setting up a routine “creates structure in our lives. a daily routine provides structure and a logical sequence in our lives. It provides the framework within which we live our lives and conduct our daily activities. Soon we become familiar and comfortable with what we have to do each day. It allows us to experience a flow to our day.”((Skilled at Life: 18 Reasons Why a Daily Routine Is So Important))

As a SAHM, you’ll benefit from the routine and take comfort in knowing what to expect. This is the time for you to incorporate anything into your daily routine that makes you feel relaxed, happy, and stress-free.

8. Meet Up With Other SAHMs

Meeting up with other SAHMs will provide you with support. Additionally, the kids get to socialize with other children and you with other like-minded moms.

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Not working outside the home sometimes can feel isolating, so talking to other adults is a nice treat. Below, I included a link to help you find just the group for you! Check it out.

9. Hire a Babysitter!

Sometimes you might like to go out with friends, get pampered at a spa, or what-have-you. A babysitter or a trusted family member can help with that.

These little breaks can be the fuel you need to keep going. It’s like getting a mini-vacation. It’s revitalizing. Once you get home from your spa treatment or the movie you saw with your friends, you will have renewed energy. You can now refocus on your castle tasks. And remember, a happy mom, makes for a happy child!

Final Thoughts

As a SAHM, you might make the mistake of thinking that if you don’t bring home a paycheck, you’re not valuable or helping with the household expenses. You’re actually helping more than you think.

You don’t need a paycheck to add value to who you are. You are already one of the most valued members of society. You’re watching over human lives—your children—making sure they are safe, healthy, and happy. And as far as expenses go, you will be saving on daycare costs and transportation expenses.

If after reading all these amazing things about being a SAHM, you’re still conflicted, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s not for everyone.

As I mentioned above, staying at home can be challenging. And in all honesty, it can have its drawbacks. That’s also why I provided you here some tips on how to be a successful stay-at-home mom.

For example, being at home with your children all the time can make you feel a little depressed or bored. You might not feel like you’re being stimulated by life or adult-like situations. Maybe some of the hobbies you used to enjoy get neglected, or you might feel financially dependent on your husband.

Furthermore, you might think you’ll lose all your abilities; the opportunity to utilize the educational training you received. Or maybe you miss the ritual of getting dressed, driving to work, and being around other people who are doing similar things. That’s all valid.

Only you can make that decision. While you’re thinking about it, though, let me remind you that as a SAHM you will be missing some things. But you’ll be gaining so much more.

Doing a presentation at work may get you kudos and accolades, but hearing the words, “I love you, mommy” is priceless. Watching your children grow up before your very eyes? Priceless. Making sure they’re safe and sound with you loving them all day? Priceless.

There is no other job in the world with those kinds of benefits. As a SAHM, you are the heart and soul of your castle.

Remember, too, that your children will grow up. You won’t have to wait until you’re 65 to retire. And although your job as Mom will never be done, you’ll be able to do many things that you didn’t get to do while on active duty.

When you are “done,” you will have the satisfaction of having accomplished an amazing feat. You can feel proud because success like that isn’t easy to come by.

The title of Stay-at-Home-Mom, despite what any group might say, is a powerful and inspiring one.

Are you up to the challenge?

Want to know more about being a successful stay-at-home mom and its benefits? Check these out:

More Tips for Stay-at-Home Moms

Featured photo credit: Alexander Dummer via unsplash.com

Reference

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