Kids Under One Should Not be Exposed to Electronic Screens

The United Nations agency issuing its first such guidelines said under-five-year-olds should also be physically active and get adequate sleep to help develop good lifelong habits and prevent obesity and other diseases in later life

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.

Tim Smith, Reader in Cognitive Psychology, Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck, University of London, said: "In recent months United Kingdom parents of 0- to five-year-olds and early-years practitioners have been bombarded with conflicting recommendations and guidelines about how and whether they should be managing their children's screen time and sedentary behaviour, e.g. from the RCPCH and Chief Medical Officers". Sedentary screen time for this group of children under age 5 should be no more than one hour and less is better.

Instead, "when sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged", the organisation said of young children.

Infants three months and younger should have between 14 and 17 hours of good quality sleep, and babies between four and 11 months should get between 12 and 16 hours of sleep, according to the guidelines. Screen time is not recommended.

Andrew Przybylski, director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute at Oxford University, agreed that while restricting young children's screen time appeared to "make many ways the conclusions drawn about screens are out of step with scientific evidence of harm".

1-2 year old kids should be spending at least three hours each day engaged in physical activities, too.

World Health Organization also recommends that these children get 10 to 13 hours of quality sleep each day, which may include a nap.

Screen time should be limited to one hour a day for 3- to 4-year-olds as well, according to the guidelines.

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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. Again, the World Health Organization advises the importance of regularity when it comes to things like bedtime.

It also recommended that children aged one to two should have 11 to 14 hours of sleep, and kids aged two to four ten to 13 hours a day, including daytime naps.

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 advice is where possible, to move from sedentary, passive screen time to more physical activity while at the same time protecting that very important quality sleep".

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages media use, except for video-chatting, for children younger than 18 to 24 months.

In Canada, screen time for children younger than two is not recommended.

"Too often, I see tired, overscheduled kids who eat on the run during the week and become sedentary on weekends because they are exhausted".

"Keep these guidelines in mind when planning your child's daily routine". "By working on those aspects first, screen time and sedentary behaviors should naturally stay fairly low".

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