For elementary, middle and high school students the winter break is a blessed 10 day stretch of no homework, staying up late, sleeping in, and increased exposure to video games, the internet, and television.
According to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, today’s children are spending approximately 53 hours a week on entertainment media which includes televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices. During the holiday break, that number tends to increase to roughly 56 hours per week.
“By limiting screen time and offering non-electronic formats such as books, newspapers and board games, parents can help guide their children's experience,” says Timothy F. Doran, M.D., chairman of Pediatrics at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. “The holidays are a great time to have fun together as a family, finding other activities to keep busy are key.”
Doran acknowledges that video games can teach children healthy skills for the self-care of illnesses such as asthma and diabetes, and can be a source of family fun. “While video games can have positive effects, it’s no surprise that too much screen time has negative long-term effects on children's physical health such as obesity.” adds Doran.
Doran offers some tips to help parents keep their children healthy and happy over the holiday break:
Establish "screen-free" zones at home. No TVs, video-games or smartphones during meals, for instance.
Limit entertainment media/video games for no more than one to two hours per day.
Encourage all children and adolescents to spend time on outdoor play, reading, hobbies, and using their imaginations in unstructured play.
Make sure that your children get enough sleep during the night.
“Parents have asked me ‘how much is too much’ when it comes to their kids and exposure to electronic devices,” says Doran. “My first recommendation is for parents to monitor all activities their younger children do on the computer, tablet or smartphone. This means playing the video games, participating in the social network sites to understand them, checking privacy settings. and using filtering software for internet use. My second recommendation is that all electronic activities should be done in moderation.”
GBMC Department of Pediatrics
GBMC HealthCare includes Greater Baltimore Medical Center, a 255-inpatient bed acute care not-for-profit hospital which opened in 1965; Greater Baltimore Medical Associates, a group of more than 40 multi-specialty physician practices on the hospital’s Towson campus and in off-campus locations across the region; Greater Baltimore Health Alliance, a network of employed and community-based clinician partners working collaboratively to provide better health and better care at a lower cost, Gilchrist Hospice Care, Maryland’s largest hospice organization offering in-home care, a 34-bed inpatient center on the GBMC Towson campus and a 10-bed inpatient center in Howard County; and the GBMC Foundation, which raises funds to support the organization’s mission. For more information, visit www.gbmc.org