The new guidelines are in, and parents with young children should take note.
According to the World Health Organization, children under five years old must spend less time sitting watching screens, get better quality sleep and have more time for active play if they are to grow up healthy.
The recently published guidelines state that the younger the child, the more serious the implications. Specifically, infants one years of age and younger should have no sedentary screen time on electronic devices, such as watching TV or videos and playing computer games. For children ages three to four, sedentary screen time should be capped under an hour.
“Early childhood is a period of rapid development and a time when family lifestyle patterns can be adapted to boost health gains” said WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. And with 80% of adolescents not physically active enough worldwide, the long-term effects of correcting this could compound into massive changes.
If established early in life, the healthy habits of less screen time and more physical movement plus sound sleep will follow children through adolescence and into adulthood. These will strengthen not only physical health, but mental as well.
Putting it to Practice
Ok, you understand the new guidelines and they make sense. But how do you put them to work in real life?
Try putting active playtime back into your children’s routine. Instead of sedentary pastimes like a movie, streaming TV shows, video games or games on the phone, immerse your children in more active play like reading, storytelling, singing and puzzles. These forms of interactive play are crucial for childhood development according to the WHO guidelines.
And when the times arise when your children are allowed to spend time on screens, protect their eyes from the harmful effects of blue light. Not only can this help prevent Computer Vision Syndrome, but the melatonin-suppressing effects of blue light can interfere with a good night’s sleep, which all children need plenty of.
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