Since a TV, computer, phone, or tablet has made its way into most homes in America, parents have wondered one thing – how much screen time is too much for young children? Well, for the first time ever, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued guidelines to help parents answer this question.

How Much Screen Time Does WHO Recommend?

As with any health recommendation, these guidelines are exactly that – guidelines. They are not a one-size-fits-all prescription. The guidelines break down by age:

  • 1 year and under – zero screen time. Sleep ranges between 12 and 17 hours per day, including naps. Babies need physical activity several times a day and they recommend interactive floor-based play and 30 or more minutes per day of ‘tummy time’.
  • 1 – 2 years – one hour or less of screen time per day. Sleep ranges between 11 and 14 hours per day. Toddlers need around 180 minutes of physical activity per day. And this doesn’t have to be structured as it’s more important for toddlers to get the opportunity to play in a variety of ways.
  • 3 – 4 years –  one hour or less of screen time per day. Sleep ranges between 10 and 13 hours per day. Young children need around 180 minutes of physical activity per day, but at least 60 minutes of it should be of moderate to vigorous intensity.

Why Did WHO Release Guidelines For The First Time?

More and more people are seeing the negative health impacts of a sedentary lifestyle and, unfortunately, our children are not exempt. Just like their parents, the WHO says that children will grow healthier is they spend less time sitting, more time actively playing, and getting enough quality sleep. This leads to less body fat, which makes them healthier overall. Obesity rates are on the rise and overweight children become overweight adults. This puts them at greater risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Healthy Parenting Tips

As a physician and father of four, I know how difficult it can be to know what’s best for your kids. Here are my recommendations for raising healthy children:

  1. Plan Play Time – many parents are busy juggling way more than just work and family. Make sure to include playtime with the kids when you plan out your day.
  2. Set A Timer – when your child is using a device with a screen, set a timer and clearly communicate the limit to your child. The very young ones may not understand at first, but over time they will grow accustomed to it. It’s also a good idea to give a 5-minute warning so they know screen time is coming to an end.
  3. Avoid Restraints – please don’t restrain children in a high chair or stroller for more than 1 hour at a time.
  4. Set A Nighttime Routine – any parent knows how the day after a poor night’s sleep can be harrowing. Make quality sleep a priority by setting a routine. This helps children wind down and get into a rhythm for bedtime.

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