W.H.O. Calls For Limited or No Screen Time Under Age 5

April 30, 2019 at 4:15 pm

The World Health Organization issues strict new guidelines on screen-time based on emerging science.

The World Health Organization recommends no screen-time under for the first two years of life, and less than an hour for children between ages 2 and 5.

“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,” the organization says in a press release.

It’s perhaps “one of the most anxiety-producing issues of 21st century family life,” The Washington Post notes: “How much should parents resort to videos and online games to entertain, educate or simply distract their young children?”

The answer, according to WHO, is little to never.

The organization drew on emerging studies about the risks screens pose to the development of young minds.

One study published in JAMA Pediatrics in January found that screen time could delay toddlers’ language and sociability skills.

Another, published this month in Pediatrics, found that parents interacted with, and spoke to, their toddlers more when reading them print books rather than electronic books.

The guidelines come at a time when it is becoming more and more commonplace for young children to spend long hours entranced in front of screens.

Ninety-five percent of families with children under the age of 8 have smartphones, and nearly half of those children under 8 have access to their own tablet, according to the non-profit organization Common Sense Media.

Child development experts say learning language and social skills via real, live human interaction are among the most important tasks of childhood.

“The absolute priority for very young children has to be on face-to-face interactions, physical exercise and sleep,” said Jean Twenge, psychologist and author of “iGen.”

“I think the temptation to hand young children a phone or a tablet any time they fuss is misguided. Children need to learn how to self-soothe and manage their emotions. And if they’re frequently handed these devices, they don’t learn these things.”

“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.

“Early childhood is a period of rapid development and a time when family lifestyle patterns can be adapted to boost health gains.”

A bipartisan group of lawmakers have proposed legislation calling for the National Institutes of Health to conduct a $40 million, multi-year study of the effect of technology, screen-time and online media on infants and older children.

For advice on what to do after you turn off the screens check out Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids: