The World Health Organisation has come up with some new guidelines for physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for children under 5 years of age. WHO has warned that the increasing use of gadgets and screen time by kids is damaging our children’s health. Taking note of the fact that early childhood is very crucial for development, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urges everyone to do ‘what is best for health right from the beginning of people’s lives’ to ensure overall good health. Bad lifestyle habits during childhood are likely to have a devastating effect later in life and lead to diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart diseases, stroke, among others.

In the report published as a news release on its website, WHO states that ‘ Children under five must spend less time sitting watching screens, or restrained in prams and seats, get better quality sleep and have more time for active play if they are to grow up healthy.’ Cutting down screen time will help ensure more physical activity, less sedentary time and hence, better quality sleep in young children which could positively impact their physical, mental health and wellbeing, and help prevent childhood obesity and diseases later in life, according to Dr Fiona Bull, programme manager for surveillance and population-based prevention of noncommunicable diseases, WHO.

Various studies have established that excessive screen time is disastrous for our children’s health. A recent study published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health said that more than two hours of screen time every day can lead to poor cognition and slow thinking in kids. Some other studies have said that watching screens can lead to vision problems like dry eye syndrome and poor eyesight.

Did you know that a whopping 80 per cent of adolescents are not as physically active as they should be? WHO suggests some non-screen-based activities including reading, storytelling, singing and puzzles, as important for child development.
Some of the important recommendations as suggested by WHO are:

For children who are less than 1 year old: Being physically active several times a day, not allowing screen time, not restraining for more than 1 hour at a time.

For children who are 1-2 years of age: Spending at least 180 minutes doing physical activities and not allowing screen time.

For children who are 3 to 4 years of age: Physical activity for at least 180 minutes, sedentary screen time for only 1 hour or less