Our concierge family doctors in Jupiter understand that, in a world dominated by screens, trying to limit your children’s screen time can be a daunting task. But the World Health Organization (WHO) recently released new guidelines that largely track those issued two years ago by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
What is ‘screen time’?
First, let’s define what constitutes “screen time.” The AAP defines it as time spent using digital media for entertainment purposes. The organization does not include time spent doing homework in its recommendations. The WHO has a similar definition of passively watching entertainment on a screen. But the overall thrust of its guidelines were aimed, not just at the sedentary activities of viewing computers, smartphones, and televisions, but at improving physical health through sufficient exercise and sleep.
In addition, the AAP guidelines addressed screen time for children of all ages, while the WHO recommendations focused on children under age five.
Problems with infants
Both groups recommend no screen time at all for infants 18 months and younger.
“The noise and activity of a screen are distracting for a child,” Dr. Yolanda Reid Chassiakos told CNN. Chassiakos is the lead author of the AAP’s report. She said banning screen time for babies is crucial, not only for brain development but for healthy parent-child connections.
“Even if the baby isn’t directly looking at the screen—for example, if a mother is nursing her child on the couch while watching TV—the baby can be overstimulated by the lights and sounds, which may cause distress and sleep problems.”
Chassiakos also noted that screens tend to interfere with creating intimate bonds between parents, children, and siblings and that tech-free bedrooms can help promote better sleep. Other experts have warned that screen time may inhibit a child’s ability to develop language and social skills.
The WHO took these recommendations a step further, noting that improving physical activity and sleep among young children, while limiting sedentary behaviors such as screen viewing, can help prevent problems later in life stemming from becoming overweight and out of shape.
Here are the WHO’s new guidelines:
Infants younger than one
- no screen time at all
- physical activity several times a day, including floor-based play and 30 minutes of tummy time
- limiting restraint (in a stroller, high chair, or caregiver’s back) to less than an hour at a time
- 14-17 hours of quality sleep, including naps, for infants three months and younger
- 12-16 hours of quality sleep, including naps, for those between four and 11 months
Children between one and two
- no screen time for one-year-olds
- one hour of screen time for two-year-olds
- 180 minutes a day in physical activity (not necessarily structured exercise)
- limiting restraint to less than one hour at a time
- between 11 and 14 hours of quality sleep, including naps
Children between three and four
- one hour of screen time
- 180 minutes a day of physical activity, including 60 minutes of vigorous running and jumping games
- 10-13 hours of quality sleep, which may include naps
“Too often, I see tired, overscheduled kids who eat on the run during the week and become sedentary on weekends because they are exhausted,” Dr. Jennifer Shu, an AAP spokeswoman, told CNN.
As always, we are here for you and your family, so feel free to consult us regarding any questions you may have about shielding your children from excessive screen time.