Many an optometrist in Sutherland, and other medical practitioners across the recognize the authority that the World Health Organization carries. For the first time ever, the healthcare and medical arm of the United Nations has issued recommendations regarding children’s exposure to electronic screens, with the recommendations including that young kids under the age of one shouldn’t be exposed to screens at all.
Notably, the recommendations made by the WHO are extremely similar, almost identical, even, to the 24-Hour Movement Guidelines that were developed by a cooperation between Australian and Canadian experts, led by the University of Wollongong’s Professor Tony Okely, an early childhood expert.
These guidelines on exposure to electronic screens is useful for any optometrist in Sutherland or anywhere else in the world, but they’re not the primary project of the WHO, as it’s only a part of recommendations by the organisation aimed at addressing issues like inadequate sleep, as well as the effects of spending long amounts of time sedentary. To that end, the panel also looked at the benefits of spending more time doing physical activities.
The WHO now recommends that kids younger than one year of age should be physically active multiple times a day in different ways, which include at least half an hour in the prone position. Any amount of screen time is not recommended, with reading and storytelling suggested as possible alternatives for kids when they’re not being active.
For kids over a year old, the WHO recommends at least 180 minutes of physical activity daily. For children two years and older, sedentary screen time every day should be less than an hour.
On top of that, the WHO also recommends that kids under five shouldn’t be in restraints for more than an hour at a time, like in high chairs or prams.
As for sleep, the WHO recommends a gradually decreasing schedule, with kids between 0 to 3 months getting around 14-17 hours of sleep daily, while kids between 3 and 4 should get 10-13 hours of sleep a day.
Dr. Fiona Bull, WHO’s Program Manager for Surveillance and Population-Based Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases, explained that the recommendations are for cutting down on screen time, improving physical activity, as well as ensuring proper and quality sleep for kids, which will improve their health, physically and mentally, as well as improve their well being and cut down on childhood obesity and any associated diseases later on in their lives.