No screen time for babies, only 1 hour for kids under 5

No screen time for babies, only 1 hour for kids under 5

The U.N. health agency said Wednesday that kids under 5 should not spend more than one hour watching screens every day - and that less is better. Although many parents have discovered that sitting an infant in front of a TV or tablet can prove a capable distraction, the potential health risks may be considerable.

"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", the report states. Screen time is not recommended for 1-year-olds, and the guidelines recommend that it be limited to one hour a day for 2-year-olds.

"Improving physical activity, reducing sedentary time and ensuring quality sleep in young children will improve their physical, mental health and wellbeing", Dr Fiona Bull, program manager for surveillance and population-based prevention of noncommunicable diseases, at the WHO says, "and help prevent childhood obesity and associated diseases later in life".

The guidelines were issued in light of a growing body of research into the effects of screen time on kids.

When an infant happens to be spending too much time seated, World Health Organization recommends engaging in reading or storytelling with a caregiver - and screen time is not recommended for this age group.

The guidelines also recommend that infants not to be restrained - such as in a stroller, in a high chair or on a caregiver's back - for more than an hour at a time. Screen time is not recommended. For 1-year-olds, sedentary screen time (such as watching TV or videos, playing computer games) is not recommended.

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And for children aged three to four, two 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. Sleep should be between 11-14 hours, but equally important are "regular sleep and wake-up times" to build consistency. Kids this age should participate in about three hours worth of physical activity per day. Again, the World Health Organization advises the importance of regularity when it comes to things like bedtime.

In recommendations specifically aimed at under-fives for the first time, the United Nations health agency said that about 40 million children around the globe - around six per cent of the total - are overweight.

The guidelines are comparable to recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. These guidelines are a good reminder of how to stay healthy for the long term", said Shu, co-author of the book "Heading Home With Your Newborn: "From Birth to Reality".

The screen time advice has been dismissed as unnecessary and counterproductive by British experts.

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". "By working on those aspects first, screen time and sedentary behaviors should naturally stay fairly low".

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