Babies and toddlers should have NO screen time, according to WHO

The World Health Organization has released new guidelines on screen time, physical activity and sleep in children under five.

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Once again, new kids’ screen time recommendations have been released—and this time, the message to parents is that you might want to think twice before watching the latest baby shark video with your littlest one.

New guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend absolutely no screen time for children under one. This includes watching videos or TV and playing on the phone or computer. Rather, the research emphasizes the importance of  educational interactions, like reading and storytelling, during leisure time with small children.

As for kids between the ages of two and five, the study encourages capping sedentary screen time at an hour a day—though even less is better.

By following these guidelines, WHO says caregivers will contribute to early childhood development and early learning opportunities, taking advantage of the greatest physical and cognitive growth stage (under the age of five) and teaching healthy lifelong habits.

2 kids on devices in dark Excessive screen time in kids under 5 is worse than we thoughtAlong with screen-time recommendations, the guidelines also offer advice around physical activity and sleep. “Physical inactivity has been identified as a leading risk factor for global mortality and a contributor to the rise in overweight and obesity,” says WHO. “Early childhood is a period of rapid physical and cognitive development and a time during which a child’s habits are formed and family lifestyle habits are open to changes and adaptations.”

Here are more details on WHO’s guidelines around physical activity and screen time:

Infants under one

  • Be physically active several times a day in a variety of ways, particularly through interactive floor-based play (more is better), and at least 30 minutes of tummy time spread throughout the day.
  • Not be restrained for more than one hour at a time (in stroller, high chair, carrier, etc.).
  • Screen time is not recommended. When sedentary, reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.
  • 14 to 17 hours (0-3 months) or 12 to 16 hours (4-11 months) of good quality sleep, including naps

One- to two-year-olds

  • Spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of types of physical activities at any intensity, including moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity, spread throughout the day; more is better.
  • Not be restrained for more than one hour at a time (in stroller, high chair, carrier, etc.) or sit for extended periods of time.
  • No screen time for one-year-olds; for two-year-olds, sedentary screen time should be no more than one hour (less is better). When sedentary, reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.
  • Have 11 to 14 hours of good quality sleep, including naps, with regular sleep and wake-up times

Three- to four-year-olds

  • Spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of types of physical activities at any intensity, of which at least 60 minutes is moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity, spread throughout the day; more is better.
  • Not be restrained for more than one hour at a time (in stroller, high chair, carrier, etc.) or sit for extended periods of time.
  • No more than one hours of screen time, less is better. When sedentary, reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.
  • Have 10 to 13 hours of good quality sleep, which may include a nap, with regular sleep and wake-up times.

“For the greatest health benefits, infants and young children should meet all the recommendations for physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and sleep in a 24-hour period,” WHO stresses.

The recommendations aren’t without their detractors. Max Davie, officer for health improvement for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), told The Mirror that he believes while the guidelines provide useful benchmarks for families, they should be interpreted with caution.

“Our research has shown that currently there is not strong enough evidence to support the setting of screen time limits, and that screen use should be considered alongside a range of activities to assess its impact,” Davie says.

If you’re struggling to get a handle on your kids’ screen time, click here for some simple ideas.

Read more:
I let my kid have unlimited screen time. There, I said it.
3 ways the next iPhone and iPad update will make managing screen time easy

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