Medicine

Babies and toddlers should have no screen time at all, says WHO

Babies and toddlers should have no screen time at all, says WHO

The global guidelines recommend a limit of just one hour sedentary screen time, which includes sitting still playing games on devices, for those aged between two and five years old. The guidelines varied by age group: infants younger than 1, children 1 to 2, and those 3 to 4. In addition, screen time is not recommended for children under the age of one.

And for children aged three to four, three hours of daily physical activity should include at least an hour of "moderate to vigorous" movement, while screen time should be kept under an hour.

Radesky also said that Silicon Valley, which over the past year has introduced a number of tools to help parents limit children's screen time, could go farther by improving those tools and also designing services in ways less likely to encourage heavy use by children.

For the greatest health benefits, how much play time, screen time and sleep should your baby or young child have in a given day?

"We haven't previously had recommendations for under 5", said Juana Willumsen, an expert in WHO's Department of the Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases, who contributed to the development of the new guidelines.

In Australia, the current recommendation is for no more than two hours of screen time per day for children, with screen time not recommended for children under two.

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The WHO guidance, created to help national policymakers, also includes advice on physical activity, and sleep among under fives.

In addition, the World Health Organization recommended that children between the ages of one and four spend at least three hours engaging in some form of physical activity every day, while infants under the age of one should also be physically active multiple times a day, "particularly through interactive floor-based play".

Children between one and four should spend at least three hours in a variety of physical activities spread across the day, with no more than an hour of screen time. Is WHO's recommendation sensible or unrealistic? Children aged one to two years old should spend at least 180 minutes being active and 11 to 14 hours sleeping, the report states.

Tim Smith of Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birbeck, University of London described that distinction as "an oversimplification of the many ways young children and their families engage with screen media".

"Our research has shown that now there is not strong enough evidence to support the setting of screen time limits", said Dr. Max Davie, the college's Officer for Health Improvement. "Make sleep and physical activity a priority", she said. "These ideas that kids are going to be physically active and get enough sleep - that's a good idea, but it's not all about screens".

The new guidelines are "straightforward" and "give parents some parameters to follow when it comes to sleep, physical activity and limiting screen time", said Dr. Jennifer Shu, an Atlanta-based pediatrician and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, who was not involved in the World Health Organization guidelines.