Health department encourages less screen time over holidays

Dec. 18—Just like Christmas candy, kids could get too much of a good thing when it comes to screen time during the school holiday break.

The St. Joseph Health Department is reminding families to set limits on how much time kids spend using electronic devices. The average 8- to 10-year-old spends six hours a day on screen time and four hours watching TV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The recommended amount of screen time actually is significantly less, Jada Johnson, a health department health educator, said.

"The actual recommended amount for screen time is only one to two hours per day, so it's already exceeding that amount and that is a little bit concerning," she said. "So we thought we'd give that information out right before holiday break because kids are going to be at home and they're going to be lacking the structure that they're used to at school."

It's an increased concern for adolescents since their brains are still developing and they have fewer obligations to keep busy than adults, Johnson said.

"Adults have more of a task to do every day, even when they're not working. Or if they were in school or whatever, they would have other things that they're working on outside of that that the kids really don't."

Parents sometimes get in the habit of using mobile devices or video games to keep children occupied, but finding other activities to do as a family can break that routine, Johnson said. That could mean baking for the holidays, working on exercises or reading.

"Those are always a fun way to get the brain kind of moving because they won't be in school," she said. "So we got to keep that, the brain and ... educational side of things."

It's also important that kids find ways to get enough Vitamin D. Between days being shorter, overcast weather and spending less time outside, it can become a necessity to get vitamins from other places, Johnson said. That includes options like eating eggs and salmon, oranges and vitamin supplements.

Alex Simone can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @NPNOWSimone.