And by now, we’re guessing you won’t be surprised by what they have to say.

We’re hearing it more and more from a variety of sources across the U.S.: we need to limit screen time for children.

But for the first time ever, the World Health Organization has offered its own advice on the subject, and it makes no exceptions for race, income, gender, or culture.

While it’s not surprising that they recommend kids getting lots of physical activity during the day, some of their suggestions for optimal health may force some parents to take a look at their own behavior.

For instance, WHO recommends that infants younger than 1 year of age have absolutely zero screen time, and that includes casual observation of a parent’s cell phone nearby.

Here’s the rundown on WHO’s guidelines for physical activity, sedentary behavior, and sleep for children under the age of 5.

INFANTS (Less Than 1 Year)

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· Be physically active several times a day in a variety of ways, particularly through interactive floor-based play; more is better. For those not yet mobile, this includes at least 30 minutes in prone position (tummy time) spread throughout the day while awake.

· Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g., prams/strollers, high chairs, or strapped on a caregiver’s back). Screen time is not recommended. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.

· Have 14–17h (0–3 months of age) or 12–16h (4–11 months of age) of good quality sleep, including naps.

CHILDREN AGES 1-2

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· Spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of types of physical activities at any intensity, including moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity, spread throughout the day; more is better.

· Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g., prams/ strollers, high chairs, or strapped on a caregiver’s back) or sit for extended periods of time.

· For 1-year-olds, sedentary screen time (such as watching TV or videos, playing computer games) is not recommended. For those aged 2 years, sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.

· Have 11–14h of good quality sleep, including naps, with regular sleep and wake-up times.

CHILDREN AGES 3-4

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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.

· Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g., prams/ strollers) or sit for extended periods of time. Sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.

· Have 10–13h of good quality sleep, which may include a nap, with regular sleep and wake-up times.

In 2010, WHO performed a study where they found that 80% of teens are not sufficiently physically active. That inactivity is a leading cause for mortality. While there is little data regarding the percentage of children who aren’t getting enough physical activity, we can only assume those teenagers learned that behavior.

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Our bodies were created to move, but when our children are taught from day 1 that sitting around and looking at a screen is normal, we can only expect those patterns to become the pattern for a lifetime of sedentary behavior and corresponding health issues.

“There was a predominantly unfavourable, or a null association between screen time and adiposity, cognitive or motor development and psychosocial health.” - WHO

Basically, they found that there was a significant relationship between sedentary behavior, specificallytime spent looking at screens, and obesity. And that’s to say nothing of the mental, emotional, and social damage too much screen time can do.

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Monkey-see, monkey-do is something we have to continually remind ourselves of as parents. Our kids are watching us for healthy behaviors to model their own habits after. And that includes making positive screen time choices.

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