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healthy kids and family

How to Raise Healthy Kids in the Digital Age

With screen time consuming most of our days, we have to be conscious of how this trend is affecting our kids and shaping their young minds. Growing research supports the notion of parents using media as a teaching tool to increase digital literacy skills and as a way to discourage kids from mindlessly consuming media.

What does this mean for parents?

It means that we must teach our kids that media represents far more than entertainment—it can involve learning through an educational app or game, creating videos, songs, or pictures, and connecting with others. Parents should actively encourage family connection through media—this involves using media together as a family.

For younger children in particular, pediatrician Jenny Radesky encourages prioritizing “unplugged, social, and unstructured play as much as possible” over any kind of screen time. We have known for years that creative play is good for children, but boredom is also beneficial for child development.  Screen time can become a mind-numbing outlet where kids disengage their brains and escape boredom. However, psychologists actually encourage boredom, emphasizing that it helps children learn to be still, quiet their minds, sit with themselves, and understand who they are.

Here are some tips to help you be a better digital role model for your child:

  • Don’t reach for your phone when you’re distracted.

Yes, we all multitask, and thanks to our phones, we can multitask more than ever before. But if you’re eating dinner, responding to work emails on your phone, and listening to your child talk about his day at school (all at the same time), your child isn’t getting your full, undivided attention. Plus, they learn that it’s acceptable to reach for their phone or tablet whenever they’re bored, distracted, or fidgety.

It’s important to teach your child that there is a time and a place for using their devices, but that there also must be certain spots in your home and times in the day where devices aren’t allowed, so that you and your family can talk, listen, and interact without devices or without feeling the need to multitask.

  • Don’t use an electronic device to soothe your child during or after a tantrum.

If your child is throwing a screaming, arms-flailing, rage-filled tantrum in a crowded supermarket, and you simply want the theatrics to stop quickly and with as little effort as possible, it can be tempting to hand them a tablet or smartphone to pacify them. However, parents shouldn’t use electronic devices to calm their child down during or after a tantrum.

According to Medical Daily, “pacifying children with a device doesn’t treat their behavior, but instead delays and possibly worsens the problem.” This practice can also hobble effective communication between the parent and child, making it more likely that the child will not listen to their parents when another tantrum or fight occurs.

  • Don’t feel pressured to introduce technology early.

Don’t feel like you have to introduce technology or media into your child’s life earlier than you or they feel comfortable in order to secure a competitive advantage. According to pediatrician Jenny Radesky, “interfaces are so intuitive that children will figure them out quickly” and catch up with their peers once they’re older or in school.

If you want to slowly begin teaching your young child about internet safety, online etiquette, and social media in a safe, private environment, we encourage you to check out eebudee, a training platform that prepares kids aged 4 to 12 (and their families) for the online world.

To sign up, head to our website. The eebudee chat app is also available on Android and iPhone.

**The eebudee online platform and app are in beta phase and will be officially launched in 2017. If you have any feedback or suggestions, we would love to hear from you.**

shy kid

Helping Your Shy Child Navigate Social Media

Shy kids may be more reticent than their extroverted classmates about joining a social media network. But CNN reports that there are some positives to joining social media, especially for kids who are shy or introverted.

A Common Sense Media study of more than 1,000 kids aged 13- to 17 analyzed how this cohort views their digital lives and found the following:

  • 28% said social networking made them feel more outgoing, while only 5% said it made them feel less so.
  • 29% said social media made them feel less shy, versus 3% who reported it made them feel more introverted.
  • 52% said social media has improved their relationships with friends, while 4% said it negatively impacted their friendships.
  • 20% said social media makes them feel more confident, versus 4% who said it made them feel less so.

What does this mean for shy kids?

Social media can be a place for kids and teens who feel isolated to connect with others who share their same interests.

Face-to-face communication can be hard for shy kids, often making them feel awkward and uncomfortable, but social media chats and conversations can take some of the pressure off of these social interactions.

According to Our Everyday Life, messaging, chatting, and other social media conversations can help develop kids’ social skills.

Tips for helping your shy child navigate social media

Shy kids tend to become overwhelmed with too many stimuli. Social interactions, whether they’re in person or online, can tire your child out.

Today’s Parent magazine suggests telling your child that it’s okay to return to the quiet if they become overstimulated by a situation. Don’t encourage your child to change or make them feel bad about being shy; instead, be a role model for them and support them.

However, if your child is eager to join a social media network, encourage them to sign up for one that is well-suited to their temperament. Also, be sure to keep the below pointers in mind:

  • While Facebook can help with social interaction and connecting with other kids at school, a shy child may feel pressured to constantly post updates and photos of themselves, comment on their friends’ walls, or rapidly expand their network of friends. Therefore, they may have trouble “disconnecting” from Facebook.
  • A better option, especially if your child likes photography and is artistically inclined, may be a site like Instagram, where there isn’t as much pressure to consistently post and always be connected.
  • Yet another option is eebudee, a private online platform and app where young kids (ages 4-12) can learn about social media and how to interact online in a safe, judgment-free setting. With eebudee, kids can interact with their parents, family members, and close friends without the pressures or dangers of other social media networks.

What to watch out for

Don’t let social media become a crutch for your shy child. Too much screen time can lead to isolation if kids replace in-person interactions with social media. Watch out that your child doesn’t take refuge in social media.

Also, make sure that your child doesn’t create a virtual, online persona that is different from who they are in real life; this can happen when a child develops an idealized persona online that is in stark contrast to their real personality.

Furthermore, your child won’t get as much from social media if they are a “lurker” on these sites rather than an active participant. In other words, keep an eye out to see if they spend more time viewing other people’s photos and posts than using social media to interact and connect with others. (Studies have shown that the more time kids spend scrolling through other people’s photos, the more likely they are to feel depressed or envious.)

The key lies in teaching your child to find a healthy balance between social media and real life.

Visit our Facebook page and stay tuned to our blog for more on social media balance, online safety, and other tips for parents on raising kids in the digital age.

image of child looking at cell phone screen

The Screen Time Limits Recommended by Pediatricians

You’ve laid down the ground rules with your kids, but how do you know just how much screen time is too much, and more importantly, how do you go about enforcing these limits?

According to CNN, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has revised their media guidelines and recommends the following screen time limits and best practices:

  • Kids should be limited to two hours per day of combined laptop and smartphone use. This two hour limit excludes online homework and any schoolwork. Parents should ensure that during this two hour timeframe, kids engage with only high-quality content.
  • Children under two should not have any screen media exposure (the rationale being that young children learn best by interacting with people as opposed to screens).
  • Families should set a media curfew, or a time in the evening when parents tell their kids to turn their phones, tablets, TVs, and computers off.

AAP found that kids spend an average of seven hours per day on entertainment media, which includes TVs, computers, phones, and other electronic devices.

Even more shocking are the findings of a Common Sense Media report: 38% of children under two have used a mobile device or tablet for media; and the average time per day that children under two spend with screen media is an hour.

Too much screen time is becoming a public health issue

While these guidelines may seem unrealistic or excessively strict, keep in mind that children’s behavioral, emotional, and physical health is at stake with rising media usage.

According to CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, when kids engage in too much screen time, they can become overweight, develop attention disorders, and have problems at school.

Studies have also linked excessive screen time to eye strain, aggressive behavior, sleep disorders, and even mental health diagnoses in kids.

Enforcing screen time limits and other tips

  • Monitor the media that your kids use.
  • Encourage outdoor and physical activity when your kids are outside of school.
  • Engage in screen time and media activities, such as playing a video game or watching a TV show, with your child. This way you know how much screen time they’re actually getting, and by engaging in these kinds of activities together, you encourage bonding and social interaction. You can also use this together time to promote learning by teaching your kids about advertising through commercials on TV, or the importance of not oversharing via online content.
  • Value face-to-face communication. While an educational learn-the-alphabet app or game may seem like a good way to improve language skills, AAP reports that young children learn best through two-way communication. This means that actual back-and-forth conversations are necessary to improve language skills, rather than passive listening or one-way interaction on an electronic device.
  • Know that not all media content is equal. AAP encourages the use of high-quality content, such as e-books and FaceTime or Skype video chats with relatives or a traveling parent. (As noted above, two-way conversations, no matter if they’re in person or online, boost children’s language skills and capacity for social interaction.)

With our increasingly digital world, it’s more important than ever to raise media literate children. If you’d like to learn more, please visit the AAP website. AAP has a wealth of information about children and media safety, including how to talk to your kids about social media, screen time, and sexting.

If you have a suggestion or advice regarding establishing screen time limits, please feel free to leave a comment below.

You can also visit our Facebook page to be part of our growing community of parents who want to learn more about raising kids to be healthy, happy, and well-rounded, while still embracing social media and the online world.

Cute boy eating a apple or hamburger. Focus on the apple and hamburger. Isolated on a white background

How junk food brands target kids on social media

According to Australia Food Safety News, junk food companies are targeting kids on social media. This comes off the back of findings from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, which state that around 1 in 4 Aussie kids are considered medically overweight.

This week, we’re looking at the facts surrounding obesity in children, and whether social media is a key contributor.

The Study

The study relating to junk food companies in Australia and their social media activity was undertaken by Sydney University’s School of Public Health. It spanned a one-month period, and found that unhealthy food and drink companies garnered ‘Likes’ in the number of over 13 million from Aussie consumers on social media. (Specifically Facebook.)

Experts in the health sector felt concern that aggressive marketing techniques may be a catalyst for obesity in Australian children.

What can be done?

Similar studies conducted only recently found that TV programming focused on kids aged between 6 and 11 had 10% less advertising relating to unhealthy food. This is because the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) restricts junk food advertising during child-related programming.

This does not exist for social media, but perhaps it should.

How do junk food companies target kids on social media?

Sydney University’s study looked at 27 of the highest-ranking Facebook pages for junk food brands. The following brands attained the highest number of ‘Likes’:

  • Bubble O’Bill Ice Cream – over a million ‘Likes’.
  • Skittles – over 890,000 ‘Likes’.
  • Domino’s – over 762,000 ‘Likes’.
  • Coca-Cola Australia – over 761,000 ‘Likes’.
  • Coca-Cola – over 714,000 ‘Likes’.

Each page attracted ‘Likes’ through games, picture competitions and endorsements, with many encouraging consumers to take a selfie or image of themselves holding the product to achieve temporary online fame. This is arguably a strategy that lures children and young people to engage with unhealthy products.

Is there a solution?

Lead researcher of the Sydney Uni study, Dr Becky Freeman, was reported as saying to Australian Food Safety News that ongoing unhealthy food and drink marketing had an impact on the rise of obesity in Australia.

Dr Freeman acknowledged that a total ban on junk food advertising was not likely, but as a minimum initial step, more monitoring of how unhealthy food and drink is marketed through social media is vital.

What can parents do?

If your child is on Facebook, we recommend taking a moment to see what brands they have ‘Liked’ through their profile. If they are Liking a high volume of junk food brands, it may be worth having an open discussion with them about how and why unhealthy food companies target young people.

Of course, every parent must decide how to deal with the challenges of social media in a way that suits their own child and their own parenting style. Simply understanding that junk food brands do target young people will arguably give you greater awareness around what is happening in your child’s online world. This in turn, makes a difference to your child.

Want to know more?

Like our Safe Social Media for Kids Facebook page for regular updates on keeping your kids safe online. You can also check back regularly on our blog, which features articles on topics relating to online safety for kids all around the world.

Natalie Chalwell from Funky Fitness

Active kids make active minds

We spoke with Natalie Chalwell, founder of Funky Fitness and inventor of the ‘Monkey Mat – Learning Through Movement’, about the importance of physical activity in a child’s life.

As we discovered, where movement exists, brainpower follows!

eebudee: Tell us about Funky Fitness.

Natalie Chalwell: Funky Fitness is a ‘learning through movement’ program, which has products and services for children aged between 2 and 8 years. Essentially, we teach fundamental movement skills through fun, music and dance; all with a sense of humour, as we want to immediately engage the attention of children.

Exercise benefits the brain before it benefits the body, which is why we teach with the brain in mind. To support this idea, we use equipment, which excites and piques the interest of children. Our equipment is bright, colourful and varied, which helps children to willingly learn, participate and develop their motor movement.

SM Sarah 1

eebudee: What made you want to help kids learn through movement?

Natalie Chalwell: My experience as a child was that learning did not come easy. I would leave school feeling deflated and had poor self esteem. For me, having to sit still while learning was distracting, and because of this fact, the information being poured at me left me feeling bewildered and incapable.

It was only when I began dancing that I learnt to retain information and felt a sense of accomplishment. The practice of sequencing and patterning in dance enabled me to complete and perform tasks. It was as a result of this success that I started wondering if there was a link between learning and movement.

It was from this experience that I decided to work with children in the areas of fundamental movement, physical education and dance. I became qualified to teach dance however I refused to go the traditional route. At the time I was a single mum raising two very sport orientated boys [now adults], and my younger son has an intellectual disability, so I felt the learning had to be accessible too.

SM Sarah

eebudee: Getting kids outside, away from the screen is a challenge for many parents. Do you have any tips for parents who want to encourage their kids into the great outdoors?

Natalie Chalwell: In 2015 I developed a new product called the Monkey Mat LTM [Learning Through Movement] E-Learning program. This product was initially intended to assist teachers in the classroom, because teachers were expressing concern about having little or no time to teach physical education due to a strong emphasis on attaining curriculum outcomes such as literacy and numeracy.

With this in mind I developed a program, which incorporated literacy, numeracy and physical education simultaneously for the classroom, anytime, rain, hail or shine. The advantage is it’s purposeful learning, with a healthy, optimistic attitude to screen time, while managing our physical activity objectives.

x4 kids watch tv shoulders 9 (3)

eebudee: Anything else you’d like to share?

Natalie Chalwell: It is my desire that with the digital revolution come new practices for dealing with the challenges we face, for instance, individual learning where boys and girls are treated alike, and are free to pursue equality in careers, namely in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics].

Digital technology affords today’s children opportunities never available in the industrial revolution, and it’s when they are young that they are receptive. As caretakers it’s our chance to empower our children to be insightful safe and savvy with digital technology, which is a means to learn, explore, study, enquire, research, communicate and promote well-being.

We need to equip kids with the know-how to be astute participants in a world, which is instant, accessible and at our fingertips.

Head here to discover more about Natalie’s business, Funky Fitness. You may also like to check out our Facebook page, which has more insights and tips for parents with young children in the digital age.

eebudee is a safe social media app, which teaches kids under 12 how to use social media in a secure and family-friendly environment. To find out more about eebudee, please click here.

Cute Young Girl Happily Coloring Her Easter Eggs with Paint Brush in the Park.

3 Tips for keeping Easter yummy and healthy!

Easter is just a few days away, which makes it a good time to talk about healthy eating and encouraging your kids to get off the computer and into the great outdoors.

While most kids are probably aiming to blow out on chocolate this weekend, this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.

To make your life a little easier, we’ve hopped in and come up with 3-tips for striking a balance between yummy and healthy this Easter long weekend.

1. Change up the Easter egg hunt

Forget the typical backyard Easter egg hunt. Instead of hiding chocolate all around the house or in the backyard, hide cryptic clues. Each clue is designed to lead your little one to the next clue location.

If they solve each riddle, they reach the Easter jackpot, which could include chocolate, puzzles or other fun inexpensive items that make their haul look appealing. The trick is to keep fun-levels high while secretly lowering the amount of chocolate your kids get to eat.

2. Get traditional

Did you ever dye eggs at Easter and then roll them down a grassy hill? It sounds a little crazy, but this tradition is said to have originated hundreds of years ago in Mesopotamia.

Getting involved in fun activities that don’t involve eating chocolate is a great way to keep the Easter spirit alive, without compromising on fun. It’s also a good opportunity to teach your little one how to safely boil an egg (if they’re old enough of course).

Head here for a great ‘How to Guide’ on dying Easter eggs.

3. Be active

Balancing eating well with physical activity is so important, especially when you’re trying to lead the way for a little one. This is why we don’t believe any food is truly ‘bad’, especially if you are eating in a balanced way.

A big part of striking a balance is physical exercise. So if you’re stuck for something to do on Easter Sunday, consider getting an egg and spoon race going (you can even use your dyed Easter eggs!). Not only are you showing your kids that getting puffed can be fun, you’re also getting everyone together for some family bonding.

What will you be doing this Easter? Leave a comment on our blog or Like our Safe Social Media for Kids Facebook page to get more tips about balancing nutrition and physical exercise with the online world.