How harmful is screen time for kids? Not as bad as we may think

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It's among the most talked about topics in parenting circles. Limiting screen time for children is something of a cultural obsession, one that has some parents feeling guilty. When you have friends who don't let their children watch any TV, but your child is responsible for at least one million of the views on the Baby Shark video, it's easy to get down on your own parenting, especially when it's not just our fellow parents, but experts telling us that screen time is harmful.

The American Academy of Pediatrics' guidelines suggest screen time limits based on age to protect children from the negative impacts of video, but its counterpart in the UK is taking a different approach—one that might come as a relief to parents who can list the names of all the Paw Patrol dogs.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) in the UK recently released its first guidance on screen time, and found it was "impossible to recommend age-appropriate time limits" because "there is not enough evidence to confirm that screen time is in itself harmful to child health at any age."

Whoa, what?

For parents who have been feeling guilty for going over the screen time limits (an hour for kids between 2-5 year old is an hour, and for kids younger than 24 months means nothing but video chat with Grandma) the RCPCH's guidelines bring some much-needed nuance to a debate that's been framed as a black and white issue.

Echoing previous AAP statements that were perhaps overshadowed by the inclusion of limits by age, the RCPCH "suggests parents approach screen time based on the child's developmental age, the individual need and value the family place on positive activities such as socialising, exercise and sleep - when screen time displaces these activities, the evidence suggests there is a risk to child wellbeing."

According to Dr. Max Davie, Officer for Health Promotion for the RCPCH, experts need to "let parents be parents" when it comes to screen time because "although there are negative associations between screen time and poor mental health, sleep and fitness, we cannot be sure that these links are causal, or if other factors are causing both negative health outcomes and higher screen time."

Translation: How much screen time a kid gets is not as important as the quality of the parenting they're getting.

As Scott Goldstein, an instructor of clinical pediatrics at the Northwestern University School of Medicine put it to the Chicago Tribune reporter Heidi Stevens: "If you spend Friday night watching 'Planet Earth' documentaries for three hours, that's a lot different from putting your kids in front of YouTube and watching an hour of unboxing videos. It's not the time; it's what you're doing with the time."

Over in the UK, Davie is calling for more research into how screen time impacts kids, and offers for common sense advice that works on both sides of the ocean: "When it comes to screen time I think it is important to encourage parents to do what is right by their family."

So, if what's right by your family is not owning a TV, that's cool. But if what works for your family allowing your 5-year-old to watch a movie that's 35 minutes over the AAP's daily recommendation for screen time limits, that's cool, too. Don't beat yourself up about it.

In the end, the most important screen time limits are the ones that you set for your kids, because like everything else about parenthood, there's no one-size-fits-all approach. The good news, mama? When you're ready for screen time, wireless services and products are available for you.

Want to offer your kids screen time while still having access to monitor their usage? Enter: Verizon's JustKids plan.


verizon kids plan

With parental controls, parents can monitor their data usage and keep tabs on who they're talking to so kids get the freedom of a phone (and mama gets peace of mind).

Here are some of our favorite features:

  • Choose only trusted contacts
  • Set content filters to control what kids see on their device
  • Keep tabs on their location
  • Set time limits on Internet usage (and pause access if needed)
  • Get alerts on their location
  • Determine what times of day they can use
The best part? You can add on the Just Kids plan to your family's Unlimited plan in just a few minutes.
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This article is sponsored by Verizon. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$79.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

This article was sponsored by GAP. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

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Medical researchers and providers consider a woman's postpartum period to be up to 12 months after the delivery of baby, but too often, health insurance doesn't see it the same way. Nearly half of the births in the United States are covered by Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and while the babies who are born during these births are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP for a year, their mothers often lose their coverage 60 days after delivering their child. There is clear data showing 70% of new moms will have at least one health complication within a year of giving birth.

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This week, members of Congress' Subcommittee on Health met to mark up H.R. 4996, the "Helping Medicaid Offer Maternity Services (MOMS) Act of 2019, and it was favorably forwarded to the full Committee.

What does this mean? It means that while this bill still has a ways to go before it potentially becomes law, its success would see states get the option to provide 12 months of continuous coverage postpartum coverage to mothers on Medicaid. This would save lives.

As we at Motherly have said many times, it takes a considerable amount of time and energy to heal from birth. A mother may not be healed 60 days out from delivering. She may still require medical care for perinatal mood disorders, breast issues like thrush and mastitis, diabetes, and the consequences of traumatic births, like severe vaginal tearing.

Cutting off Medicaid when her baby is only 2 months old makes mom and baby vulnerable, and the Helping Moms Act could protect families from dire consequences.

The United States has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, and according to the CDC, "about 700 women die each year in the United States as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications." This is not okay, and while H.R. 4996 is not yet signed into law this bill could help change this. It could help address the racial disparities that see so many Black mothers and Native American mothers dying from preventable causes in the first year of motherhood.

A report from nine American maternal mortality review committees found that there were three leading causes of death that occurred between 43 days and one year postpartum: cardiomyopathy (32.4%), mental health conditions (16.2%), and embolism (10.8%) and multiple state maternal mortality review committees have recommended extending Medicaid coverage to one year postpartum in order to prevent these deaths.

Basically, making sure that moms have have continuous access to health care the year after a birth means doctors can spot issues with things like depression, heart disease and high blood pressure at regular check-ups and treat these conditions before they become fatal.

The Helping Moms Act is a step forward in the fight for maternal health and it proves that maternal health is truly a bipartisan issue. Republicans and Democrats alike recognize the value in providing support for mothers during the postpartum period.

The Helping MOMS Act was was introduced by Democratic Congresswoman Robin Kelly of Illinois, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust. It was co-lead by Texas Republican Michael Burgess (who is also a medical doctor), as well as Georgia Republican Buddy Carter, Washington Republicans Jaime Herrera Beutler and Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Ayanna Pressley from Massachusettes and Lauren Underwood of Illinois (both Democrats).

"Incentivizing postpartum Medicaid expansion is a critical first step in preventing maternal deaths by ensuring new moms can see their doctor. I'm proud that my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, came together to put an end to the sad reality of American moms dying while growing their families," said Kelly. "We can't allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. This is a good, bipartisan first step, but it must be the first of many."

It doesn't matter what your political stripes, reducing America's maternal mortality stats should be a priority.

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Pink is about to enter a new season of life, she announced at the CMAs this week. She told ET on the red carpet that she's taking a break from her career in 2020.

"It's kind of the year of the family," Pink told reporters. "We did two and a half years of [music] and Willow's [age 8] back in school now, Jameson's [age 2] going to start pre-school soon," Pink added.

The mom of two deserves a break. Her Beautiful Trauma tour was the 10th highest-grossing tour of all time, earning more than $397 million, Billboard notes. And her husband, Carey Hart, has been super supportive of Pink's career. Now she wants to spend some time supporting him in his.

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"He's super supportive, he follows me around the world and now it's his turn," she explains. In some seasons of life a family may prioritize one parent's career over the other's, and that's okay.

Pink is hardly the first celebrity parent to put their career on pause to spend more time with their kids. Actress Katherine Heigl has taken extended breaks from her career to spend time with her children, telling Good Housekeeping in 2014, "We had big dreams of expanding our family, moving to the mountains and having a quieter life." She spent a season of her life raising her girls in Utah, and has now returned to her career, staring on Suits.

Halle Berry, too, is now ramping up her career again after a decade-long season in which she prioritized her kids' childhoods. She recently opened up to InStyle about why she chose to pause her career, and why she feels now is the time to get back into it.

"I spent almost 10 years being in mom mode. Now that my youngest is starting kindergarten, I feel like I can get back into my life, and that's important. I want to keep challenging myself and proving that I can still follow my passions, take risks and take on characters who make me feel alive. But I prove that to myself, not to anyone else. I think that's what keeps us young. It keeps me connected to my children because I'm alive in the world. One day they're going to grow up, and I don't want to be the mom who's crying because her kids left," she explained.

For Berry, Heigl and Pink, work-life balance isn't necessarily something to be negotiated on a daily basis, but rather in the longer term. It's something many mothers do. Statistics show about 43% of moms do leave their careers at some point while raising kids but for most women this isn't a permanent thing. Most go back after a year or two.

Just like going to work doesn't mean you're not committed to motherhood, taking time with the family doesn't mean you're abandoning your career. We'll see you when you're ready to come back to us, Pink. Until then, enjoy your family time.

News

It's a question that a lot of new parents ask themselves, especially when they might be receiving outdated advice from well-meaning but incorrectly informed friends and family: Do babies really need to drink water?

The answer is no. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) , babies under 6 months old do not need water.

"Breast milk is more than 80% water, especially the first milk that comes with each feed. Therefore, whenever the mother feels her baby is thirsty she can breastfeed him or her," WHO states on its website.

Formula-fed babies, too, don't need water. They can get all the hydration and nutrition they need from formula. As pediatrician Catherine Pound told Today's Parent, giving a baby under 6 months water in a bottle "interferes with feeding and can lead to poor weight gain."

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Registered dietitian Katie Zeratsky of the Mayo Clinic agrees with Pound. Zeratsky told Buzzfeed: "We don't want babies to fill up on water because it would make them miss out on key nutrients like protein, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and fat intake. Human milk and formula are meant to be the mainstay of their nutritional intake because it is such an important time for a baby's growth. Babies are growing so rapidly that their energy needs compared to ours, pound for pound, are much higher."

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents should only feed babies breastmilk or formula in their bottles (no water, no juice, no infant cereal) unless they are directly advised to serve another liquid by a physician.

Even on hot days, parents don't need to feed babies water. Bottle fed babies may require more frequent formula feeds during hot weather in order to stay hydrated and breastfeeding babies may want to nurse more than usual if it's hot out, but water should not be offered until they are older.

If you have any questions about your baby's hydration and nutrition, don't hesitate to ask your pediatrician or health care provider.

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We know that what we put into our bodies during pregnancy can affect our babies, but here's some news you might find surprising: Recent research indicates that when a mama adopts heart-healthy habits during pregnancy, it sets her baby's heart health on the right foot for years to come. Getting heart-healthy while you're pregnant could mean your child is healthier as a teen!

Researchers from Northwestern University used data from 877 mother-child pairs in six countries to come to this finding, which will be presented at American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions in Philadelphia later this month.

The research team used data to score pregnant women based on five of the American Heart Association's metrics used to measure heart health: Weight, avoidance of tobacco products, blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure. The data set looked at the children of these mothers 10 to 14 years later, when the children were scored based on the same factors (except for tobacco use).

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Here's what the researchers found: Mothers who fared the best on the assessment had children with similarly high cardiovascular health scores down the road.

"We were surprised at how strong this relationship was," says Amanda M. Perak, M.D., M.S., lead author of the study and assistant professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine at Northwestern University and pediatric cardiologist at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, according to a release from the American Heart Association. "Our findings suggest that the mother's cardiovascular health during pregnancy affects the in-utero environment in a way that may program the child's cardiovascular health long-term."

The news does make sense—and while the extent of the relationship may have surprised researchers, it stands to reason that moms who model good heart-healthy habits (both during and after pregnancy) would have kids who do the same.

What's important to remember here is that this was an observational study, so while the researchers believe they've found a link between a mama's commitment to heart health during pregnancy and her child's outcomes down the line, this research does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

With that being said, this research just gives us another reason to try hard to maintain healthy habits while pregnant—which is easier said than done, we know! But eating nutritious foods, exercising as often as possible, not smoking and watching things like blood pressure and cholesterol could make a difference in your child's life.

"Pregnancy is a perfect time for women to focus on living a heart-healthy lifestyle," says Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., M.P.H., FAAFP, American Heart Association Chief Medical Officer for Prevention, according to the release. "We're learning more every day about how a mother's lifestyle and food choices while pregnant influence a child's health in utero and after birth."

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