Regardless of age, everyone uses mobile phones and tablets. However, the new guidelines laid by WHO discourage children under one from any screen time and encourages physical activity.
It is normal for parents to pass on their phones to kids to stop them from crying. We live in an era where phones more or less have replaced toys and other activities. A lot of parents also give these gadgets to children in order to find some time for themselves from the busy day at home managing the kids and the household chores. However, the new guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) say that children under one should not have any screentime while children under five shouldn't be allowed more than one hour of screen time a day.
According to US News, the guidelines issued by WHO recommends that children under one should not have sedentary time in front of the screens. They also asked parents to make sure that the kid spends at least 30 minutes a day engaging in any physical activity. They also added that the kids should receive at least 12 hours of sleep without being restrained by strollers, high chairs or carried for more than one hour at a time.
"Achieving health for all means, doing what is best for health right from the beginning of people's lives. Early childhood is a period of rapid development and a time when family lifestyle patterns can be adapted to boost health gains," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO's director-general in a press release, reported US News.
The 17-page report called, "Guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behavior, and sleep for children under 5 years of age," was prepared based on an assessment done on the effects of poor sleep, long screen time and restrained time in children. The experts also studied the benefits of increased physical activity.
The guidelines which are in line with the American Academy of Pediatrics' guidelines instructed that children under 18 months should not be allowed any screen time other than video chatting when necessary. The WHO guidelines state that children between the age of one to four should engage in at least 180 minutes of physical activity. It also said that children between the age of two to four years old should have no more than 60 minutes of sedentary screen time per day.
The organization believes that these new guidelines will be good for kids as it will bring back necessary playtime for kids who are glued to various screens these days. "What we really need to do is bring back play for children. This is about making the shift from sedentary time to playtime while protecting sleep," said Juana Willumsen, an officer of WHO's Prevention of Noncommunicable Disease Department.
According to the report released by the organization, the failure to follow these guidelines are the reason behind more than 5 million deaths around the world each year across all age groups. It also states about 80 percent of adolescents and a quarter of adults suffer from insufficient physical activity.
However, not everyone is happy with the new guidelines. Some doctors who disagree with the WHO guidelines say that there should be room for parental flexibility. However, some believe that it is all about moderation of time spent in front of the screen and thinks it is right.
“I think we all know that it’s not good for kids. We just needed the data to support that, but now we actually have data to support that,” said Elizabeth Mack, a pediatrician at MUSC to ABC News. She also added that kids who spent more time in front of screens are bound to develop behavioral issues in the future.
According to Motherly, a study released earlier this year by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) in the UK had also talked about the need to reduce screen time. However, unlike the WHO guidelines they did not ban infants from screen time rather left it to the judgment of the parents.