Tag Archives: screens

Dr. M’s SPA Newsletter Audiocast Volume 12 Issues 18 and 20

Dr. M’s SPA Newsletter Audiocast Volume 12 Issues 18 and 20

This week we dive into prenatal multivitamins, screen usage, insect induced disease and much more. What can you do to support your teens with vitamins? What are the best mitigation measures for insect bites and their consequences? How are screens affecting our kids? ….


Dr. M

The New 6 Point Plan for Raising Happy, Healthy Children, by John Rosemond PhD (Book Review Pedcast)

Help support DocSmo.com by buying this reviewed book using this affiliate link. You get Amazon’s best price and DocSmo.com earns a small affiliate marketing fee.  Thank you.

The New Six-Point Plan for Raising Happy, Healthy Children (Volume 13) (John Rosemond)

Here we go again with another edition of DocSmo.com, the pediatric blog that brings parents portable, practical pediatrics on their schedules. For those listeners who are new to my blog, I am Dr. Paul Smolen, a board certified pediatrician with 32 years of practice experience.  Today I am going to continue my book review series with my thoughts on a new parenting book by the (sometimes controversial) psychologist Dr. John Rosemond. I must admit, I never read the old Six Point Plan for Raising Happy, Healthy, Children by Dr. Rosemond. I assume that the “points” are the same as in the original edition, but that the newer book has more supporting research and anecdotes to validate his recommendations. So, first the basics: this “new” edition is well written with clear, approachable language; it is practical in layout, with part of each chapter including a question and answer format; it is not full of psychological jargon, thank goodness; and even though Dr. Rosemond does not provide footnotes, I have to assume that he is accurately summarizing and paraphrasing the research which he references.

Now to some of the solutions to parenting problems that he stresses in the book. Dr. Rosemond provides what he sees as easy answers to many behavior problems parents may encounter. If you have children who don’t listen and are prone to whining, he thinks it is likely that your discipline is failing and that your child is getting too much attention. If you have a child with ADHD, he believes that the TV and video games are likely the culprit; he recommends getting rid of them and the problem may be solved. If your child is self-centered, Dr. Rosemond thinks you are giving them too many “things.”  He contends that if a child can’t entertain himself, he probably has too many toys and outlets for amusement. All these circumstances may be true for certain children, but certainly not all.

Readers need to be for warned that this book is full of Dr. Rosemond’s own opinions, replete with “in your face” classic Dr.Rosemond style. I am sure his blunt advice will rub many readers the wrong way. I think the reason for this is Dr. Rosemond’s insistence on only paying attention to the limit-setting side of the successful parenting formula and ignoring the leadership-love side. Yes, limits need to be set, I totally agree, and a child needs to provide labor for his or her family, and TV and video games are undoubtedly a negative force in some children’s lives, but equally important to a child’s healthy psychological development are a parents’ ability to provide consistent love and acceptance, making children feel needed, creating an atmosphere where children want to please their parents, and setting a good example for children to model.  I am sure Dr. Rosemond understands how important leadership is to parenting, but I think he needs to articulate it more as he gives parenting advice. Maybe he will do exactly that in the New-New Six Point Guide to Raising Happy, Healthy Children… the next edition?  In my opinion, that would make a good book into a great one. I give him four Doc Smo stars on this edition. Until next time.

The Genius of Parents (Pedcast)

Doc Smo here, your pedcast host. Thank you for tuning into another edition of DocSmo.com, the pediatric podcast dedicated to parents and children. It’s a beautiful day in Charlotte, and that fact has undoubtedly raised my mood. I must say, I’m constantly reminded of what geniuses mothers and fathers are. Just this week, observing parents with their children has reminded me of this fact.


Take a mother who came with her 10 year old this week, for instance. During the talking part of this boy’s checkup, the conversation turned to his bedroom and his bedtime activities. This child’s mother was quick to pipe into the conversation how important sleep was to his brain function… and she is right! Recent research shows that just an hour less sleep each night reduces the intellectual functioning of a school age child by 2 full grades! That’s like a 5th grader functioning on a 3 grade level. This mom hadn’t read this research but instinctively knew this. Amazing. During that same conversation, the mother reiterated why her son could not have a TV in his room or screens of any sort in his bedroom! This lady is on top of the latest research without even reading it. Research shows that, on average, children with screens and TVs in their room do less well in school.


I am also reminded of the mom who chimed in during my conversation with her son about bike helmets, reinforcing my message of how absolutely essential it is to wear a helmet, not just on a bike, but anything that rolls. The child started negotiating…”What about my skateboard, what about my scooter. Do I need to wear my helmet riding these as well”? Mom took over at this point and came out with this statement, “The point is, Johnny, if you fall and hit your head rolling on anything, we want your helmet to break, not your head. You’ll wear the helmet when you ride on anything that rolls or you will lose that toy.” Right on, Mom.

Dad’s aren’t too shabby when it comes to intelligence either. While I was discussing a young boy’s respiratory illness with him and his Dad earlier this week, the young man interrupted me with a comment before I had finished with my thought. Dad was quick to correct his interruption with some wisdom of his own: “Son, you only have one mouth but two ears, which means you should listen twice as much as you talk!”  What wisdom.  We should all remember that one.


And finally, let’s not forget the teaching of social graces that parents are constantly doing. Just because their children are at the doctor’s office doesn’t mean that these genius parents don’t stop demanding that their children learn to talk to and respect older individuals. I can’t tell you how often I hear parents correct their children to address me as sir, look me in the eye when talking to me, prompting their children to answer my questions without the parent’s help, or show gratitude when I show concern for their well being or give them something. Personally, I take comfort when I hear these things. These parents are grooming their children for success, teaching social skills that they will undoubtedly need when they are captains of industry, civic leaders, professionals, or productive, responsible adults.


Parents never cease to amaze me. That’s why I always do my best to listen carefully when they talk. They usually are very insightful and wise about one of their favorite topics: their children. If you enjoyed this pedcast, take a minute to write a review on iTunes or leave a comment on my blog, www.docsmo.com. You are the reason I make these podcasts. This is Dr. Paul Smolen, hoping you get in sync, with your great parental instincts. Until next time.

From the desk of Doc Smo: Life is a group activity! (article)

No wonder we are becoming an extremely polarized society: people, especially young adults, are walking around with mp3 players, cell phones, and earphones everywhere they go. They may be physically in one place, but they are interacting with an entirely separate virtual world. When I walk around the streets, what I see are people walking around not hearing birds, not talking to people they encounter, not hearing bikers or cars approaching, and generally being in another mental place. I see little conversation between people on the street. No meeting new people or interacting with strangers. I think this is a shame. I think this kind of isolating behavior is not good for the individual immersed in portable media, but I think it is also bad for our society as a whole. It’s easier to succumb to the danger of becoming rigid and dogmatic in your thoughts if you are not forced to encounter opinions other than your own. Portable media creates isolation.

The world needs more tolerance and understanding, not less. That’s why travel, both local and distant, is so great. You meet new people from other cultures and backgrounds. You are forced to see the world from their perspective. You are forced out of your own comfort zone and see the world through a different lens. In my opinion, parents need to understand the isolating effect of cell phones, portable media, and video games and actively counter their effects. Set a good example by greeting people on the street, seeking out friendship with people with different backgrounds from your own, and showing a curiosity about people and things that are unfamiliar to you.

My daughter and I love to wander and take pictures. It’s our hobby that we have shared for years. I always tell her that no matter how many pictures we take on an outing, if we get one great picture the whole day seems worthwhile. I think the same is true of encounters outside your normal sphere of comfort. In your travels, if you make one new friend, learn something about the world you didn’t know before, or see life in a broader context, the whole experience becomes worthwhile. If you and your children do use the new portable media, make sure you strive to spend an equal amount of time showing a curiosity about what is around you.

Screen Time: The first 2 years (Pedcast)

Today’s podcast is full of practical, relevant information about the effect of screens on very young children. Listeners will find out what the “experts” in child development are learning about the effects of TV and other screens on children less than 2 years of age. Get in on the discussion and listen. You will be glad you did.


DocSmo here, your pedcast host. Thanks for joining me today for another installment of DocSmo.com bringing you relevant parenting information that will help parents from preschool to grad school.

Get ready for a lively discussion of a topic that, until recently, I knew very little about.

Today, I am going to bring you some new research with regards to screen time in children less than 2 years old.

I am going to talk about information that was presented at the October AAP meeting

Based on this research, things looking bad for educational videos but things are looking pretty good for traditional play.

You will see from today’s discussion that experts feel that screen time actually may interfere with parents talking to their children which has the effect of reducing a child’s language stimulation, creative play time, and problem solving abilities.

The conclusions of recent research really make sense;. Children learn best when they have the direct, one on one guidance by a caring adult, especially their parents

Lets explore this a little in today’s podcast.


I encourage you to read the specifics of the AAP statement which I have linked on my site in what I call  Smo notes.  It is really very interesting and I think it may change some of your basic, core concepts about parenting.  It did mine.

I will attempt to summarize the conclusions for you now:

Children, less that 2 years of age do not have good enough language ability to understand much of the content presented by a screen and therefore do not learn language as well from a screen as they do from an parent.

In fact, time they spend watching videos or TV under 2 years of age lessens their time talking to an adult or older child and actually SLOWS their language learning!

Background TV is also harmful as it distracts a parent from talking to their children.  A fact that is born out by recent research.

Infant and toddler programming may be entertaining, but should not be marketed as educational because there is no evidence that it is.

And finally, parents who allow TV in their child’s bedroom may be adversely affecting their child’s quality of sleep not to mention allowing too much screen time.


OK, so that’s what the experts say but let’s talk about the real world.  Easy access to TV and other screens is a fact of our daily lives.  We need to learn to live with them.

I don’t know about you but almost every time I read a new AAP set of recommendations, I begin to feel guilty about the was my wife and I treated our children.  I agree with the AAP that traditional play is better for very young children than watching a screen but I am skeptical about the background exposure argument.

Think about it, you could make the same arguments about radio, books, newspapers, or even having guests at your house. Lots of things interfere with a parent talking to their children.  Should we ban these as well? I think most of us would say not and I suspect that most pediatricians have not followed all the academy recommendations when their children were under 2 years of age.



I think we should think of these new recommendations as goals and not absolutes rules, for instance:

Parents should try and maximize language stimulation to their children. Talk to them and reinforce their language, especially in toddlers.  It is easy to forget that they are learning a new language.

Read to your children whenever you can.

Don’t use the TV as a babysitter.

Try not to have meals in front of a TV,  it is distracting to everyone and inhibits conversation.

Creative toys or real world objects that they can play with and manipulate are much better than educational videos, especially for children under 18 months.

Whenever possible, get down on the floor and play with your children. They learn from imitation and your presence makes exploration fun.

If possible, supervise your children’s TV viewing explaining, teaching, and reinforcing your values as they relate to the show.

And finally, here is an absolute in my mind: do not allow your children to have a TVs or video games in their bedrooms.  Their sleep quality may be harmed and with the screen in their control, enforcing limits on screen time becomes virtually impossible.


Children must be good learners and language is essential to that learning. For a moment, imagine you were dropped off in a country where you spoke none of the language and you needed to learn to communicate as fast as possible.  Which do you think would be the easiest and fastest way to learn the new language;  by being dropped off in a movie theater and watching many, many hours of film or by having a private tutor teach you the language by showing you things, one word at a time?

-The answer is obvious…. The tutor.

-I think this is a good analogy to what young children are up against making sense of their world and is in keeping with the new research.

I hope you found that discussion useful.

My goal is to always bring you practical and relevant information that you can USE.

If you found this information useful, explore the DocSmo library for other topics.

I post a pedcast weekly as well as other content such as short essays and my lunchtime interviews with my partners which I call the lunchroom lowdown.

To get the latest content right away, make sure to subscribe on itunes, like DocSmo on face book or follow me on twitter.

While your at it, tell a friend who might also enjoy learning new things about pediatrics and children.

This is Dr. Paul Smolen, hoping you are able to begin to wean, your young children from the screen


Until next time




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Lunchroom Lowdown: “Screens” and Young Children (Article)

Our most recent lunchroom discussion was a lively one. I asked the doctors and nurse practicioners to read and comment on the new Academy of Pediatrics recommendations regarding screen time in children younger than 2 years of age, and they came ready to comment. Before we got into the specifics of the AAP recommendations, we talked about our own childhoods with regard to TV and screens. I discovered that Dr. Riley grew up completely without TV. Her only exposure to TV was during visits to her grandmother’s home. The oldest doctors, Dr. Plonk and myself, were newborns around the time TV was invented. Can you believe it! These families had one black and white TV in the master bedroom, somewhere where children rarely ventured. All of their TV viewing was special occasion viewing such as a space launch, the death of a president, or a Disney special broadcast. The much younger nurse practicioners recall having fairly strict screen time limits. Anne Gessner remembers running through the house to shut off the TV as she heard her parents approach in the garage. Melissa Davis’s parents were both teachers and severely limited access to TV. None of the providers had a TV in our rooms, and everyone felt that we were better off without it. TV time would have meant less time playing outside, building forts, playing dress up and school, building models or reading. Exactly what the AAP says.

Next we discussed the specifics of the AAP statement which the group was in agreement with. Many of the providers, including myself, were interested and surprised to discover that new research says that not only is screen time NOT useful to children under 2 years of age, but that it is harmful to their language development. We were also interested in the notion that even background TV alters a child’s language development. Very interesting.

In a world full of screens, we realized that both parents and pediatricians have many challenges in front of them. Parents must limit screen time, both foreground and background types, especially for their very youngest children. They need to resist using a TV as a babysitter, and they need to be actively engaged in the viewing of TV for their older children. Getting down on the floor and having unstructured play is the best stimulation for young children. And let’s not forget reading to children of all ages. It was our opinion that reading to children is absolutely essential for good cognitive development. Doctors have the challenges of discussing the subject of limiting screen time in an otherwise busy agenda of a health supervision visit. We need to do a better job helping families come up with strategies to limit screen time and of reinforcing reading, outside activity, and unstructured play. Let’s get started, shall we?

For more on these subjects check out the following Pedcasts:

Episode 15: Playground, no parents allowed

Episode 1: Screen time, How much is too much?

Episode 23: Starting Young Children toward a Life of Literacy

Screen Time, How Much is Too Much? (Pedcast)

Practical advice on how to limit screen time without being the screen police!

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