World Health Organization issues screen time norms for kids

United Nations: Infants under the age of one year should not be exposed to electronic screens at all and “sedentary” screen time for children under five must not be more than an hour a day, according to the WHO’s new guidelines.

The guidelines were issued as part of a campaign to tackle the global obesity crisis and ensure that young children grow up fit and well, particularly since development in the first five years of life contributes to children's motor and cognitive development and lifelong health. In recommendations specifically aimed at under-fives for the first time, the UN health agency said that about 40 million children around the globe - around six per cent of the total - are overweight. Of that number, half are in Africa and Asia, it noted.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said that children under five must spend less time sitting watching screens, or restrained in prams and seats, get better quality sleep and have more time for active play if they are to grow up healthy.“Achieving health for all means doing what is best for health right from the beginning of people's lives,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

The new guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for children under 5 years of age were developed by a WHO panel of experts. They assessed the effects on young children of inadequate sleep, and time spent sitting watching screens or restrained in chairs and prams. They also reviewed evidence around the benefits of increased activity levels.

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

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