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WHO issues new screen use guidance for children under 5

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And for any child under 12 months old, these recommendations are crucial.

With the digital world taking over our lives, it’s no surprise that our children are becoming pretty adept at using smartphones and tablets from very young ages. Screens are an instant source of entertainment, allowing us a few minutes to get chores done, and can be a handy tool to calm our kids down. But this is less than ideal for healthy child development, and finally the World Health Organization (WHO) has spoken up on the issue, encouraging parents of youngsters to put down the screens.

The guidance from the UN’s specialized agency on public health has determined that children under the age of five should use a screen for no more than hour in a day. For children under 12 months, the recommendation is for no screen time at all.

The advice was given in response to the growing concern of sedentary behavior in children which is leading to increasing rates of childhood obesity.

There has been some criticism from other pediatric bodies about how WHO determined these definitive time allocations for these age groups. “Our research has shown that currently there is not strong enough evidence to support the setting of screen-time limits,” asserted Dr Max Davie from the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health in Britain.

Andrew Przybylski, the director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford also points out that the WHO’s guidelines “overly focuses on quantity of screen time and fails to consider the content and context of use,” according to a report in Business Insider.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers more specific advice by recommending the sort of content a child should be watching, saying that educational programs watched with parents can actually be beneficial for the under-twos, whereas children under 18 months should have their content limited to short video chats.

As parents we try to be informed as to what is the best for our children. Although the advice is a little conflicting, perhaps we should all use a little common sense and focus on what’s most beneficial for our family as a whole. Spending time with our kids and engaging in activities is obviously optimal, but if on the odd occasion we resort to allowing our children screen time, we need to make sure it’s educational and can bring some added-value.

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