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Tech for kids isn’t ‘bad’—it just needs to be used carefully

What did we do with kids on six-hour road trips before iPads?

While many parents appreciate how well screens keep kids occupied and even have some developmental perks, it’s hard to avoid those nagging questions: Is the price we pay too dear to justify the frequent use of tech? How much is too much? Is one kind of tech better than another? Is it really as bad as we think it is?

There are some interesting answers to these questions—and some may surprise you.

The good: Some forms of tech promote development

Technology is a necessary component of modern life. "Using technology is essential to a child's education. To remain competitive in today's world markets, children must learn to use technology to their advantage,” says Dr. Jarret Patton, MD, FAAP. “However, all technology use should be in moderation."

Ben Graves, creator of social media-monitoring company Pharos Social, points out it is important for the parent to not only monitor how much total screen time kids are getting, but also what kind of screen time: Passive consumption—like when you veg in front of the TV, get pulled into a video game or get caught up on social media aren’t developmentally beneficial.

On the other hand, creative consumption, in which the child uses technology to learn and be creative, shouldn’t be quickly condemned.

Even then, passive media has its role. A recent study found that unless children are spending more than half of their free time playing video games, gaming has no negative impact on social development and can actually be likened to any other form of free play.

The bad: Overuse of tech can negatively affect physical, social and mental health

Sleep problems

How many teenagers check their phones as the last thing they do before going to sleep? Even young children may settle into their beds with short Netflix movies. You might notice that children have a hard time settling down after turning off their devices. That’s because the emotional stimulation has the opposite effect of a soothing bedtime routine, and the blue light that emanates from these devices actually affects circadian rhythms by throwing off the child's entire sleep cycle.

Social isolation

Living on social media gives teenagers a false sense of relationships when, in fact, they are alone in their rooms. David Ezell, CEO of Darien Wellness, sees hundreds of families affected by the overuse of technology. In his practice, he notes “a lack of eye contact, decreased ability to read emotion in others and less motivation to take risks and reach out to peers because online ‘friends’ will support them.” To mitigate this, experts recommend talking with growing kids about how social media doesn't compare to real socialization.

Developmental delays

Overuse of tech doesn’t just affect older kids. In one recent study, 20% of the infants evaluated spent an average of 28 minutes a day using screens—and every 30-minute increase in daily screen time was linked to a 49% increased risk of delayed speech development.

“The effects of screens on very young brains is still not fully understood, but I have not seen anyone in the field suggest there are benefits.” says Ezell. Connecting eyes and expressions—which screens can’t provide—with speech is essential in picking up the nuances of language.

Bottom line: It’s going to take some work on your part

With all the different apps on the market for babies, toddlers and older kids, it's important to remember that nothing replaces one-on-one interaction with a human.

Patton says children under the age of two shouldn’t have any screen time—and it should be used in moderation for kids older than that. As for educational programs or learning apps, Patton says parents should always be present to monitor use and reinforce instruction.

Enforce screen limitations and model appropriate screen behavior. Putting your phone away when you come home from work and leaving it there until the kids are in bed is a great way to model engagement and be an attentive parent. It sends a message to children that they are more important than a call or text.

Many parents reduce screen time by canceling their cable in favor of streaming services with better parental controls. Some families also choose to have device-free meals every night or use apps to monitor and limit children’s phone and tablet use. There is also a movement that advocates waiting until eighth grade to give a child a smartphone. For communication and emergencies, flip-phones are adequate—and less addicting.

From infancy to adolescence, children grow up with technology—that’s the reality. As their guardians, it is our job to limit its use, model an appropriate relationship with technology and teach them that human interaction cannot be replaced. It’s possible for your children to have a healthy relationship with technology, and it starts with you.

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Parents in New Jersey will soon get more money and more time for parental leave after welcoming a baby.

This week New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed off on legislation that extends New Jersey's paid family leave from six weeks to 12.

It also increases the benefit cap from 53% of the average weekly wage to 70%, meaning the maximum benefit for a parent on family leave will be $860 a week, up from $650.

It might not seem like a huge difference, but by raising the benefit from two-thirds of a parent's pay to 85%, lawmakers in New Jersey are hoping to encourage more parents to actually take leave, which is good for the parents, their baby and their family. "Especially for that new mom and dad, we know that more time spent bonding with a child can lead to a better long-term outcome for that child," Murphy said at a press conference this week.

The law will also make it easier for people to take time off when a family member is sick.

Because NJ's paid leave is funded through payroll deductions, workers could see an increase in those deductions, but Murphy is betting that workers and businesses will see the benefits in increasing paid leave benefits. "Morale goes up, productivity goes up, and more money goes into the system," Murphy said. "And increasingly, companies big and small realize that a happy workforce and a secure workforce is a key ingredient to their success."

The new benefits will go into effect in July 2020 (making next Halloween a good time to get pregnant in the Garden State).

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Whether you just need to stock up on diapers or you've had your eye on a specific piece of baby gear, you might want to swing by your local Walmart this Saturday, February 23rd.

Walmart's big "Baby Savings Day" is happening from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at participating Walmarts (but more deals can be found online at Walmart.com already and the website deals are happening for the rest of the month).

About 3,000 of the 3,570 Supercenter locations are participating in the sale (check here to see if your local Walmart is).

The deals vary, but in general you can expect up to 30% off on items like cribs, strollers, car seats, wipes, diapers and formula.

Some items, like this Graco Modes 3 Lite Travel System have been marked down by more than $100. Other hot items include this Lille Baby Complete Carrier (It's usually $119, going for $99 during the sale) and the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat (for as low as $199).

So if you're in need of baby gear, you should check out this sale. Travel gear isn't the only category that's been marked down, there are some steep discounts on breast pumps, too.

Many of the Walmart locations will also be offering samples and expert demos of certain products on Saturday so it's worth checking out!

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Any Schumer has not had an easy pregnancy. She intended to keep working, but if you follow her on social media you know she's been very sick through each trimester.

And now in her final trimester she's had to cancel her tour due to hyperemesis gravidarum, also known as HG. It's a rare but very serious form of extreme morning sickness, and on Friday evening Schumer announced she is canceling the rest of her tour because of it.

“I vomit every time [I] ride in a car even for 5 minutes," Schumer explained in an Instagram post.

Due to the constant vomiting she's not cleared to fly and just can't continue to the tour.

This is not the first time Schumer has had to make an announcement about HG. Back in November, just weeks after announcing her pregnancy, she had to cancel shows and again broke the news via Instagram.

She posted a photo of herself in a hospital bed with her little dog Tati, and spelled out the details of her health issues in the caption. "I have hyperemesis and it blows," Schumer wrote.

Poor Amy. Hyperemesis gravidarum is really tough.

Kate Middleton, Ayesha Curry and Motherly co-founder Elizabeth Tenety are among those who, like Schumer, have suffered from this form of severe morning sickness that can be totally debilitating.

As she previously wrote for Motherly, Tenety remembers becoming desperately ill, being confined to her apartment (mostly her bed) and never being far from a trash can, "I lost 10% of my body weight. I became severely dehydrated. I couldn't work. I couldn't even get out of bed. I could barely talk on the phone to tell my doctor how sick I was—begging them to please give me something, anything—to help."

Thankfully, she found relief through a prescription for Zofran, an anti-nausea drug.

Schumer probably knows all about that drug. It looks she is getting the medical help she obviously needs, and she was totally right to cancel the tour in order to stay as healthy as possible.

We're glad to see Schumer is getting help, and totally understand why she would have to cancel her shows. Any mama who has been through HG will tell you, that wouldn't be a show you'd want front row seats for anyway.

Get well soon, Amy!

[A version of this post was published November 15, 2018. It has been updated.]

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As a military spouse, Cydney Cooper is used to doing things alone. But when she delivered her twin daughters early after complications due to Influenza A, she was missing her husband Skylar more than ever.

Recovering from the flu and an emergency C-section, and trying to parent the couple's two older boys and be with her new infant daughters in the NICU, Cydney was exhausted and scared and just wanted her husband who was deployed in Kuwait with the Army and wasn't expected home for weeks.

Alone in the NICU 12 days after giving birth, Cydney was texting an update on the twins to her husband when he walked through the door to shoulder some of the massive burden this mama was carrying.

"I was typing up their summary as best I could and trying to remember every detail to tell him when I looked up and saw him standing there. Shock, relief, and the feeling that everything was just alright hit me at once. I just finally let go," she explains in a statement to Motherly.

The moment was captured on video thanks to a family member who was in on Skylar's surprise and the reunion has now gone viral, having been viewed millions of times. It's an incredible moment for the couple who hadn't seen each other since Skylar had a three-day pass in seven months earlier.

Cydney had been caring for the couple's two boys and progressing in her pregnancy when, just over a week before the viral video was taken, she tested positive for Influenza A and went into preterm labor. "My husband was gone, my babies were early, I had the flu, and I was terrified," she tells Motherly.

"Over the next 48 hours they were able to stop my labor and I was discharged from the hospital. It only lasted two days and I went right back up and was in full on labor that was too far to stop."

Cydney needed an emergency C-section due to the babies' positioning, and her medical team could not allow anyone who had previously been around her into the operating room because anyone close to Cydney had been exposed to the flu.

"So I went in alone. The nurses and doctors were wonderful and held my hand through the entire thing but at the same time, I felt very very alone and scared. [Skylar] had been present for our first two and he was my rock and I didn't have him when I wanted him the most. But I did it! He was messaging me the second they wheeled me to recovery. Little did I know he was already working on being on his way."

When he found out his baby girls were coming early Skylar did everything he could to get home, and seeing him walk into the NICU is a moment Cydney will hold in her heart and her memory forever. "I had been having to hop back and forth from our sons to our daughters and felt guilty constantly because I couldn't be with all of them especially with their dad gone. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life and I won't be forgetting it."

It's so hard for a military spouse to do everything alone after a baby comes, and the military does recognize this. Just last month the Army doubled the amount of leave qualifying secondary caregivers (most often dads) can take after a birth or adoption, from 10 days to 21 so that moms like Cydney don't have to do it all alone.

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