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News for parents from the 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics Conference

By Dr. Gigi Chawla, Children’s Minnesota senior medical director of the primary care division and pediatrician

I recently attended the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) annual conference in San Francisco, along with several other Children’s Minnesota pediatricians. At the conference, our pediatricians learned about and presented on the latest kids’ health topics. It was exciting to gather with 10,000 other pediatricians from across the country and work together towards our shared goal to improve the health and wellness of all children. Coming out of the conference, I wanted to share some of the information that parents and caregivers may find most valuable.

Kids and screen time: In a world of 24/7 digital media, we know it is difficult for parents to manage their kids’ screen time, but it’s really important. During the conference, AAP issued updated guidelines. Watch this video on our Facebook page for more about the new screen time guidelines, which include:

  • Infants younger than 2 years: AAP continues to recommend avoiding screen time. However AAP now says that video-chatting with family on a limited basis is okay. Additionally, if parents want to introduce their 18 to 24 month old to media, AAP stressed that it should be high-quality programming and parents should watch with their children.
  • 2 to 5 year olds: Limit daily screen time to one hour of high-quality programming. Parents should watch with their children and engage them in a discussion about what they watch and learn.
  • Children 6 and up: Now the AAP doesn’t make specific recommendations about screen time hours for this age range, as kids often need to spend time on the computer for schoolwork. Each family should determine their own rules about screen time – check out the AAP Family Media Use Plan tool to set your house rules. This plan can be shared with other caregivers, such as family and babysitters.
  • Importantly, designate “screen-free” times, such as family meals, before bed, first thing in the morning and more.

Online “sharenting”: Just as parents set limits for their kids’ screen time and what they should and shouldn’t post about online, parents should limit what they share about their kids on social networks. Research shows that 92-percent of 2 year olds have an online presence. Here are some things for parents to consider when posting about their kids online:

  • Don’t disclose your child’s location.
  • Never post pictures that show your child without clothes.
  • Give older children “veto” power over your posts.
  • Consider the effect that each post will have on your child now and in the future.

Infant safe sleep: Sleep-related deaths, such as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), account for approximately 3,500 infant deaths every year. The AAP issued updated recommendations for preventing SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths. Watch this video on our Facebook page for more about what these recommendations mean for parents. Some highlights include:

  • New this year, AAP recommends parents co-room with their infants for the first year of their life, or at least six months. This means parents and infants share a room, but the infant sleeps on a separate, safe surface such as a bassinet or crib. Research shows that room sharing can decrease the risk of SIDS by as much as 50-percent.
  • Follow the safe seep ABCs; babies should always sleep alone, on their back and in a crib without any lose materials or soft bedding. Babies should never sleep in a bed, couch or other surface. For more on the safe sleep ABCs, read this blog post.
  • Breastfeeding and vaccinations can also help protect babies from SIDS.

Healthy eating habits for life: Healthy eating was another key topic at the conference, including preventing childhood obesity, managing picky eaters and avoiding processed foods. Presenters shared the science behind calories and the health dangers of eating a diet heavy with processed food. They debunked the myth that a “calorie is a calorie” and stressed the importance of eating “real food.” We know this can be difficult for busy parents, so here are some simple and cost-effective recommendations from Children’s Minnesota:

  • For nights that a hot dinner isn’t possible, a sandwich on whole grain bread with natural peanut or almond butter, baked chicken or another healthy protein can be a great option.
  • Have simple snacks such as apples and bananas at the ready.
  • Remember it’s not just foods that have hidden sugars and empty calories – sugar-sweetened beverages do too. So make sure your family drinks water throughout the day, which you can flavor naturally with fruit, and limit juices or sports drinks to no more than one a day.

Another key takeaway for families is that children model their eating habits from parents, so family mealtime is critical. At mealtime, put down the electronics, provide healthy, well-balanced meals and use the time to connect with your family.

Stay tuned for more blog posts in the coming months from me and Children’s Minnesota pediatricians about other topics coming out of the meeting and checkout the #AAP16 hashtag on Twitter for conference news. You can also watch my weekly WCCO-TV segment Ask the Pediatrician (Wednesdays during the 9 a.m. hour), where I’ll be discussing some of the hot topics from the conference.

Gigi Chawla, MD
Gigi Chawla, MD
Kristin Tesmer