The new World Health Organization screen time for kids limits are super-strict

Phillip Cunningham
April 26, 2019

The WHO defines sedentary screen time as "watching TV or videos or playing computer games".

"Our research has shown that now 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", he said.

Director of Research at Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford, Andrew Przybylski, said the guidelines "overly focuses on quantity of screen time and fails to consider the content and context of use".

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. In a new report, WHO insists that sedentary behavior in children up to five years of age puts them at a dramatically increased risk of developing habits links to obesity and all the nasty health effects that come with it.

Be physically active several times a day in a variety of ways, particularly through interactive floor-based play; more is better. "Not all screen time is created equal".

"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.

All children age five and younger should not be restrained or sedentary for more than an hour at a time, whether it be in a stroller, high chair or strapped onto a caregiver's back. Is WHO's recommendation sensible or unrealistic?

The WHO also stressed that children aged one to three should have at least three hours of physical activity and not be constrained in a stroller, auto seat or carrier for more than one hour at a time.

Limiting, and in some cases eliminating, screen time for children under the age of 5 will result in healthier adults, said World Health Organization, adding that quality sedentary time spent in interactive non-screen-based activities with a caregiver, such as reading, storytelling, singing and puzzles, is very important for child development. It said that clear advice was crucial to stem the global rise of child obesity and children over one should move about for at least three hours... "What we really need to do is bring back play for children".

As for 3-4 years olds, even then screen time should be seriously limited. 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".

World Health Organization did not specifically detail the potential harm caused by too much screen time, but said the guidelines - which also included recommendations for physical activity and sleep - were needed to address the increasing amount of sedentary behavior in the general population. The American Academy of Pediatrics' guidelines make an exception to allow video chatting for children under 18 months and suggest that those closer to 2 might benefit from occasional viewing of educational videos.

"None would contest the fact that increasing physical activity, sleep, and health are important goals and it is possible that screens impact young people in a wide range of ways but we won't know that until good scientific studies are done".

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