By Mary Kay Turner

It is best to start getting children back into school schedule mode a month before school starts, but it can still be done now.  The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following amount of sleep each night by age group:  Toddlers (age 1–2 )— 11-14 hours;  Preschoolers (3–5)—10-13 hours; School age children (6–13)—9-11 hours;  Teenagers (14–17)—8–10 hours; Adults (18–64)—7-9 hours.

In 2018 another concern for parents is screen time— time spent in front of any screen from phone to big screen TV—especially entertainment.  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has made recommendations for this; for children up to 18 months old— only parent-approved video-chatting, possibly adding high quality programming for children 18–24 months old, watching with parents to explain what they’re seeing. For age 2–5, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs, parents viewing with their children and talking with them to help them understand what they are seeing.  For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on types of media and time spent on each type. It is very important to make sure that screen time does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity, face-to-face interaction, healthy meals and snacks, and other behaviors essential to good health.  

AAP recommends designated media-free family times, such as dinner, and media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.  Parents must monitor children’s online behavior, and it is important to talk with children about online safety and treating all people with respect online and in person. 

Lauren Hale. a sleep researcher at Stony Brook University in New York, sums up her findings from over a decade of research: “As kids and adults watch or use screens, with light shining in their eyes and close to their faces, bedtime gets delayed. It takes longer to fall asleep, sleep quality is reduced and total sleep time is decreased.”   She learned that this happens especially to people who look at screens in the hour before going to sleep because of the effects of the light from the screens on brains.  She recommends and strictly enforces two rules for her two children: No screens in the hour before bed, no screens in the bedroom and no screens as part of the bedtime routine. 

It is important for parents to be parents and to make decisions for nurturing the health and safety of their children.  Parents set the limits that are important for their children’s well-being, listen to what their children say about their needs, and together set up rules that help children stay safe and alert.  Parents may need to help their children decide what is most important and choose priorities, so they can fit activities they like into their schedules. 

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