I was so happy to see the World Health Organization announce specific guidelines on screen time for young kids last week—but I still want more.
According to a news release dated April 24, “Children under five must spend less time sitting watching screens, or restrained in prams (strollers) and seats, get better quality sleep, and have more time for active play if they are to grow up healthy.”
The release includes these recommendations:
Children ages three and four:
- Should spend at least 180 minutes a day engaged in physical activity. A variety of activities is good, and those 180 minutes should be spread throughout the day. Sixty minutes should be moderate to vigorous in intensity, and it need not happen all at once.
- Should not spend more than one hour at a time being restrained, like in a stroller.
- Screen time should not exceed one hour, and less is better.
Toddlers ages one and two:
- Need at least 180 minutes of various physical activity during the day. More is better.
- Should not be restrained for more than one hour at a time—that includes time in high chairs, strollers, or sitting.
- Screen time is not recommended for one year olds. For two year olds, screen time should not exceed one hour, and less is better.
Infants (those younger than one):
- Need to be physically active several times a day in various ways. Interactive floor-based play is especially good. Tummy time should include at least 30 minutes spread throughout the day while awake. (Good thing it’s spread out over the day because no baby I know loves tummy time!)
- Should not be restrained for more than one hour at a time—that includes time in high chairs, strollers, or baby packs.
- Screen time is not recommended. Period.
Years ago when I was a young mom, I searched for information about screen time. I read that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended no more than two hours a day, though I can’t document that now because guidelines have changed. The AAP now says this:
“Avoid digital media for toddlers younger than 18 to 24 months other than video chatting. For children 18 to 24 months, watch digital media with them because they learn from watching and talking with you. Limit screen use for preschool children, ages two to five, to just one hour a day of high-quality programming.” Their advice is similar to WHO but more lenient.
The AAP provides a media-time calculator you can play with; this is a pretty accurate representation of my 13 year old’s day.
On another note, when will we get guidance about screen time for older kids? Why stop the specifics at age five? The AAP recommends that caregivers “set limits and encourage playtime.” They suggest “one size fits all” doesn’t work, so parents need to consider each child’s schedules and needs. But I want more specific suggestions. In what ways does my child’s developmental level dictate the amount of screen time?
I swear our children are frying their brains, and it’s our fault. And yet I’m as guilty as anyone else; when we’re at a ballgame and my twins are bored, they get to play a game on the phone.
I say this all the time to family and friends, but someday there’s going to be a revolution of sorts where moms say, “Enough!” They’ll refuse to let their kids be on devices, and they’ll toss their own. Yes, I truly think someday (and probably not within our own generation), mothers will say it isn’t worth it to have a phone attached to their hands. They’ll be tired of their kids struggling to focus, unable to sit still or have real conversations. They’ll be fed up with nonexistent attention spans. They’ll be upset about pornography and eliminate accessibility within their homes.
What do you think about screen time and kids? What do you think about a someday revolution? Are you as sick of screens as I am? •
YES. I am so sick of the screens, too, and I spend a fair amount of time thinking about my children’s screen usage. I have always limited their screens, but as they get older, this is getting harder and harder. Whenever anything goes wrong at home, my first thought is usually, “I need to cut back the screen time!” I realize that this can’t possibly be the root of every problem, but it seems to be tied in so frequently.