Children under a year old should avoid screen time and those under 5 should receive no more than an hour per day, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended Wednesday in its first-ever guidance on the matter.
A WHO panel of experts developed the guidelines as part of broader guidance on physical activity, sedentary behavior and sleep for children under 5.
“Improving physical activity, reducing sedentary time and ensuring quality sleep in young children will improve their physical, mental health and wellbeing, and help prevent childhood obesity and associated diseases later in life,” Dr. Fiona Bull, program manager for surveillance and population-based prevention of noncommunicable diseases at the WHO, said in a press release.
“When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged,” the WHO said. The guidelines further call for children 1-2 years old to spend at least three hours throughout the day on physical activities at any intensity, noting that failure to meet current physical activity recommendations is responsible for more than 5 million deaths around the world per year across all age groups.
Some pediatric and health experts, however, disagreed with the WHO’s conclusions.
“Our research has shown that currently there is not strong enough evidence to support the setting of screen time limits,” Dr. Max Davie, officer for health improvement at Britain’s Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, told The Associated Press. “The restricted screen time limits suggested by WHO do not seem proportionate to the potential harm,” he said.