Pediatricians Want Parents to Stop Giving Toddlers Digital Toys

Lisa Rapaport wrote . . . . . . . . .

All those interactive digital toys and mobile apps designed for little kids are exactly the type of gifts parents should take off their holiday shopping lists, U.S. pediatricians say.

That’s because just like parking kids in front of the television, giving them tablets and smartphones to play games or handing them digitally enhanced toys gets in the way of creative play and interactions with caregivers that are essential for child development, according to a clinical report released on Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

“Physical toys (and books) support warm, verbally rich interactions and quality time for the parent or caregiver and the child,” said report co-author Dr. Alan Mendelsohn of New York University School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital Center in New York City.

“The same is not true for digital toys, which actually impede those interactions,” Mendelsohn said by email. “There is little or no evidence that screen time has any benefit for young children 2 and under.”

Under 2 years of age, children shouldn’t have any screen time at all, whether it’s television or digital games and toys, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Too often, however, parents give infants and toddlers digital apps and toys out of a mistaken belief that this can be educational, Mendelsohn and colleagues note in their report, published in Pediatrics.

One of the most important purposes of play during childhood – especially for infants and toddlers – has nothing to do with ABCs or 123s. The point of play for very young children should to foster warm, supportive interactions with caregivers and help kids develop early social, emotional and behavioral skills, the doctors say.

When digital apps and toys do help children with optimal development, it’s usually because they’re using the toys with parents and caregivers, they note. When kids play alone, however, there’s no clear advantage to having smartphones, tablets or digital interactive toys.

Ideally, parents should choose toys that are not overstimulating and encourage children to use their imaginations.

Social, emotional and behavioral skills are developed and enhanced when kids use play to work out real-life problems, doctors note.

Source: Reuters


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Glyphosate in Roundup Weed Killer Found in Oat Cereal and Granola Bars

See large image . . . . .

Source: EWG, from tests by Eurofin Analytical Laboratories

*EWG’s child-protective health benchmark for daily exposure to glyphosate in food is 160 ppb.

** ND = none detected

*** Two product samples tested both had 20 ppb glyphosate concentration.

**** Lucky Charms Frosted Toasted Oat Cereal with Marshmallows. Marshmallows were manually removed from the samples prior to shipping to the lab and testing for glyphosate.


Popular oat cereals, oatmeal, granola and snack bars come with a hefty dose of the weed-killing poison in Roundup, according to independent laboratory tests commissioned by EWG.

Glyphosate, an herbicide linked to cancer by California state scientists and the World Health Organization, was found in all but two of 45 samples of products made with conventionally grown oats. Almost three-fourths of those samples had glyphosate levels higher than what EWG scientists consider protective of children’s health with an adequate margin of safety. About one-third of 16 samples made with organically grown oats also had glyphosate, all at levels well below EWG’s health benchmark.

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, the Monsanto weed killer that is the most heavily used pesticide in the U.S. Last week, a California jury ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million in damages to a man dying of cancer, which he says was caused by his repeated exposure to large quantities of Roundup and other glyphosate-based weed killers while working as a school groundskeeper.

EWG tested more than a dozen brands of oat-based foods to give Americans information about dietary exposures that government regulators are keeping secret. In April, internal emails obtained by the nonprofit US Right to Know revealed that the Food and Drug Administration has been testing food for glyphosate for two years and has found “a fair amount,” but the FDA has not released its findings.

Read more at Environmental Working Group. . . . . .

Too Much Screen Time May Harm Children’s Vision

As children spend more time tethered to screens, there is increasing concern about potential harm to their visual development. Ophthalmologists – physicians who specialize in medical and surgical eye care – are seeing a marked increase in children with dry eye and eye strain from too much screen time. But does digital eyestrain cause lasting damage? Should your child use reading glasses or computer glasses? As you send your kids back to school this month for more time with screens and books, the American Academy of Ophthalmology is arming parents with the facts, so they can make informed choices about their children’s eye health.

It’s a fact that there is a world-wide epidemic of myopia, also known as nearsightedness. Since 1971, the incidence of nearsightedness in the US nearly doubled, to 42 percent. In Asia, up to 90 percent of teenagers and adults are nearsighted. Clearly, something is going on. But scientists can’t agree on exactly what.

A new study appearing in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, offers further evidence that at least part of the worldwide increase in nearsightedness has to do with near work activities; not just screens but also traditional books. And, that spending time outdoors—especially in early childhood—can slow the progression of nearsightedness. It remains unclear whether the rise in nearsightedness is due to focusing on phones all the time, or to light interacting with our circadian rhythms to influence eye growth, or none of the above.

While scientists look for a definitive answer, there is no doubt that most computer users experience digital eyestrain. Kids are no different from adults when it comes to digital eyestrain. They can experience dry eye, eye strain, headaches, and blurry vision, too. While symptoms are typically temporary, they may be frequent and persistent.

But this doesn’t mean they need a prescription for computer glasses or that they have developed an eye condition of middle-age that requires reading glasses, as some suggest. It also doesn’t mean that blue light coming from computer screens is damaging their eyes. It means they need to take more frequent breaks. This is because we don’t blink as often while using computers and other digital devices. Extended reading, writing or other intensive near work can also cause eye strain. Ophthalmologists recommend taking a 20 second break from near work every 20 minutes.

Here are 10 tips to help protect your child’s eyes from computer eyestrain:

  • Set a kitchen timer or a smart device timer to remind them.
  • Alternate reading an e-book with a real book and encourage kids to look up and out the window every two chapters.
  • After completing a level in a video game, look out the window for 20 seconds.
  • Pre-mark books with a paperclip every few chapters to remind your child to look up. On an e-book, use the “bookmark” function for the same effect.
  • Avoid using a computer outside or in brightly lit areas, as the glare on the screen can create strain.
  • Adjust the brightness and contrast of your computer screen so that it feels comfortable to you.
  • Use good posture when using a computer and when reading.
  • Encourage your child to hold digital media farther away, 18 to 24 inches is ideal.
  • Create a distraction that causes your child to look up every now and then.
  • Remind them to blink when watching a screen.

“I prefer to teach kids better habits, instead of supplying them a crutch like reading glasses to enable them to consume even more media,” said K. David Epley, M.D., clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “If you run too far and your legs start hurting, you stop. Likewise, if you’ve been reading too long or watching videos too long, and your eyes start hurting, you should stop.”

Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology

Portable Music Players Tied to Hearing Loss in Kids

Lisa Rapaport wrote . . . . . . . .

Children who listen to music through headphones may be at greater risk of noise-related hearing loss, a Dutch study suggests.

Researchers examined hearing test results for 3,316 children ages 9 to 11. They also asked parents about hearing complaints from their children, how often kids used portable music players and how high they typically set the volume.

Overall, 443 children, or 14 percent, had at least some difficulty hearing at high frequencies. High frequency hearing loss, especially in younger people, is often caused by noise exposure.

Regardless of how long they wore headphones or how high they set the volume, kids who used portable music players just one or two days a week were more than twice as likely to have hearing loss as children who didn’t use the devices at all.

“Although we cannot conclude from this study that music players caused these hearing losses, it shows that music exposure might influence hearing at a young age,” said lead study author Dr. Carlijn le Clercq of Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam.

“This is important, because hearing loss is irreversible and thus has lifelong consequences,” le Clercq said by email.

More than nine in 10 older children and teens use some type of portable music player – often a smartphone or tablet – for education and recreation, researchers note in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

With noise-related hearing loss, sounds can seem muffled or distant and people may hear ringing in their ears. This can sometimes be temporary, happening after a loud concert, but it can become permanent with repeated exposure to noise.

In the current study, 1,244 children, or about 40 percent, never used portable music players. Another 19 percent used portable music players once or twice a week, and about 8 percent used them at least three times weekly.

Most of the kids didn’t have any hearing-related symptoms. Even among children with high frequency hearing loss, only about 7 percent reported symptoms “sometimes” or “often.”

The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how portable headphone use might directly cause hearing loss in kids. Some younger children may develop high frequency hearing loss as a result of ear infections, especially when infections are chronic.

Another limitation of the study is that researchers lacked data on portable music player use and hearing-related symptoms for roughly one-third of the study participants.

Still, the results suggest that parents need to be more vigilant about how children use headphones, and how often, said Kevin Franck director of audiology for Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

“Parents should limit use of a portable music player,” Franck, who wrote a commentary accompanying the study, said by email. It’s too loud if parents can hear it, he said.

Headphones also are not the only way that children may develop hearing loss, noted Colleen Le Prell, an audiology researcher at the University of Texas at Dallas who wasn’t involved in the study. Live concerts, band practice, hunting, power tools, lawn mowers, dirt bikes, mopeds, and other motorized equipment can also create enough exposure to loud noise to potentially damage kids’ hearing, she said by email.

“Limiting music player use should be considered as part of an overall safe listening strategy,” Le Prell added.

Whenever children may be exposed to loud noise, “hearing protection should be provided, and should include ear plugs marketed for musicians, ear muffs, or conventional ear plugs as appropriate for the sound source,” Le Prell advised.

Source: Reuters

Should Kids Lift Weights?

In addition to playing outside and participating in sports, your kids may want to lift weights, join fitness classes or do some other form of strength training. But is this a good idea for children? Might it harm their growth and cause injury?

Strength, or resistance, training may involve free weights, weight machines, elastic tubes or the child’s own weight.

Strength Training May Prevent Sports Injuries

Strength training for kids 8 years and older is safe according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP reports that strength training may help prevent some of the 3.5 million sports related injuries to children each year.

Strength training among youth does more than improve body composition and cardiac fitness. It also improves blood cholesterol, bone density and even mental health. And don’t worry that children will bulk up like miniature Hulks. The AAP says that youngsters will get stronger without increasing their muscle size until they hit puberty.

Is CrossFit Okay for Kids?

CrossFit is an intense strength and conditioning program. It focuses on extreme muscle actions such as jumps and Olympic lifts. In addition to weights, CrossFit uses sandbags, tires and kettlebells. So, is it okay for kids to participate? It’s more suited to the advanced athlete who enjoys high intensity, vigorous activity and wants greater variety in a fitness program.

Less intense CrossFit classes conducted by coaches trained in child development can be fun and safe for kids. For example, climbing ropes is a great activity. But, kids shouldn’t be doing strength moves such as the clean and jerk. Whether it’s CrossFit or any other program, consider your child’s safety and the trainer’s qualifications. Also, for strength training programs, kids need to be able to follow directions and have the desire to participate in the activity.

Best Strength Programs

A good program starts with active games, includes 20 to 25 minutes of weight training and ends with games focused on motor skills. Resistance bands, dumbbells and child-size machines help kids start low and add resistance as they build strength. According to the AAP, a well-supervised program has a coach-to-student ratio of 1:10 or less.

Children with uncontrolled high blood pressure, seizure disorders or a history of chemotherapy for prior cancer treatment should not participate in strength training programs.

Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics