Ask Dr. Nandi: Exercise, sleep, screens – New guidelines for children under 5

Posted at 1:54 PM, Apr 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-24 17:43:22-04

(WXYZ) — How much screen time is too much for young children? That question was answered by the World Health Organization. They issued their first-ever guidelines regarding physical activity, sleep and screen time for children under the age of 5.

Question: What are the guidelines?

Now these guidelines are not a one-size fits all, they’re actually broken down by age. So if a child is younger than 1, WHO recommends they are physically active several times a day. They suggest interactive floor-based play and 30 minutes or more of tummy time. Sleep ranges between 12 and 17 hours including naps.

For toddlers aged 1-2 years of age, 180 minutes of physical activity is recommended. Now this doesn’t need to be structured play, rather just the opportunity to play in a variety of activities. Children this age need 11-14 hours of sleep.

For 3 and 4 years old, 180 minutes of physical activity is also recommended, however WHO would like at least 60 minutes to be moderate to vigorous intensity. And the sleep recommendation is 10-13 hours.

Lastly, WHO recommends 1 hour or less of screen time for children aged 2, 3 and 4. And none for children 1 and younger.

Question: Why is WHO recommending these guidelines?

Well, obesity rates are rising dramatically. And as overweight children grow into overweight adults, they are at a higher risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Now, the World Health Organization says that children will grow healthier if they spend less time sitting, get quality sleep and active play. Because this leads to less body fat, making them healthier overall.

Question: How can a parent turn these recommendations into reality?

I have some prescriptions to share:

Partha’s RX

1. Many parents lead busy lives and their child’s playtime can often be overlooked - so be sure to include it when you plan out your day.

2. When your child is using a tablet or device, set a timer so you know exactly how much screen time they are getting.

3. Please don’t restrain children in things like a stroller or high chair for more than 1 hour at a time.

4. Make sleep a priority by setting up a night time routine – this helps children wind down and prepare for bed.