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Screen time, texting, multi media use and distracted driving.  It’s an epidemic.  It’s hard to get away from it.  Starting at a very young age we introduce our children and unfortunately babies to screen time.  I see it in my office every day.  It used to be that I walked into a room and found parents reading books to their children, but now everyone is on a screen, including babies.  And it’s not just in my office where people are waiting and passing time, it’s everywhere.  Take a look around and you see the over use of devices; people walking and using a device, driving and using a device, eating and using a device, at the movies, in social situations, etc.

All of this screen time carries some serious consequences.  The first and most serious is distracted driving, a dangerous epidemic.  Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death in teens and talking and texting are the leading cause of distracted driving.  In 2012 alone, 3,328 people were killed in distracted driving crashes and 421,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver.  Excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep disturbance, eating disorders, and obesity.  Staring at a bright screen before bed tricks your brain into thinking it’s daytime–time to be awake and alert, instead of time to be sleeping.  Poor sleep habits leads to sleepiness and fatigue, a poor combination for school, attention, mood and health.

For these reasons and more, the AAP recommends limiting screen time to 2 hours per day.  This is actually harder than you think, as the national average is 7 hours a day of screen time.  What can you do to help yourself and your children?  Lead by example.  Children learn from their parent’s behavior, so be an example for your children.  Have the discussion with your young driver, but more importantly model good behavior.  Don’t be a distracted driver, never text or talk on the phone while driving.  Model good behavior at mealtime too; keep devices away from mealtime and family time.  Interact with your children and babies; kids learn best by interacting with people, not screens.  Get outside and active with your children, and finally, get on a routine that prohibits all electronics, including cell phones and television, one hour before bedtime.

The AAP’s Healthy Children website has some great resources for help managing all media time with your family.

I challenge you to make the change; the whole family will be safer and better for it.

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