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WHO issues official screen time guidelines for under-fives

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a set of guidelines covering the ideal levels of activity and screen time for babies, toddlers and preschoolers.

The recommendations looked at how much time each day children under five years old should spend on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep.

The report states that babies and toddlers under two should not spend any time passively watching screens, while children aged between two and five are advised to watch no more than one hour of screen time per day, although ‘less is better’.

It is key to note that the WHO report differentiates between ‘sedentary screen time’, where children sit passively looking at screens and engaging, active screen-based games.

The WHO says that its recommendations are evidence-based and that passive screen time should be replaced with other activities, but admits its findings are based on ‘very low-quality evidence’. Some UK experts have said there is not enough evidence to back it up.

Dr Tim Smith, of the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development at the University of London, said parents had been ‘bombarded with conflicting recommendations and guidelines’ and that the WHO’s latest report ‘does not help to clarify the situation’.

The UK’s Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) recommends that parents should approach the issue on a case-by-case basis, rather than using a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

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