The World Health Organisation (WHO) is recommending children under age 5 spend one hour or less on digital devices and those under age 1 spend no time at all on a daily basis.
Here are WHO’s screen time recommendations by age:
- Infant (less than 1 year of age): Screen time is not recommended.
- 1-2 years of age: No screen time for a 1-year-old. No more than an hour for 2-year-olds, with less time preferred.
- 3 to 4 years old: No more than one hour.
Sedentary behaviour by youngsters has been identified as a risk factor in global mortality and has contributed to the rise in obesity, the guidelines say.
Link between vision and inactivity
Developing the ability to “use” vision starts at birth. When a baby watches a parent form words or point to objects, their actions lead to development of a baby’s “looking” process, which fosters their internal curiosity, he says. That curiosity leads to the baby wanting to get to an object out of reach and a desire to move toward it.
Hands-on exploration is one of the ways children learn.
Consequences of too much screen time, being sedentary
- Children are less likely to have the fine motor skills necessary for writing when entering kindergarten.
- Vocabulary, communication skills and eye contact are reduced.
- Developmental delays are documented with increased device use. Screen time, for instance, has been linked to ADHD symptoms (self-regulation).
- Attention, decision-making and cognitive control are reduced.
- Creativity also suffers. Screen time interferes with problem solving.
- Psychiatric disorders reported.
- A premature thinning of the cortex based on brain scans.
According to the AOA’s 2018 American Eye-Q® survey, three-quarters of parents are concerned their children may damage their eyes due to prolonged use of electronic devices. In the survey, 4 in 5 parents reported their child spends at least an hour a day using a computer or mobile device.
The 20-20-20 rule
The 20-20-20 rule (take a 20-second break every 20 minutes and view something 20 feet away) was developed in the 1990s and, at the time, it was sufficient because we were using CRT (cathode ray tube) screens that were larger and farther away. Now, the kids are using phones very close to their faces, which is a completely different mode of operation.
The goal is not to take away screens but to help parents manage time on screens and frequency of breaks. More frequent breaks are step No. 1 in aiding in this process.