W.H.O.’s Updated Screen Time Guidelines – And Why They Don’t Change my Screen Time Rules

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On April 24, the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) issued new screen time guidelines for children under 5. They state that children under 2 should have no screen time, while children ages 2 to 4 should have no more than 1 hour of “sedentary screen time” per day.

My youngest is 3 so she falls under these new guidelines. My screen time rules for her are the same as for her older sister – about one hour per day during the week, closer to two hours on weekends. I’m not planning to change our house rules to reduce her screen time.

The W.H.O. Guidelines Focus on What Screen Time Replaces

Research repeatedly shows the potential harm screen time poses comes not from screens themselves, but what they replace. The key phrase in W.H.O.’s guidelines is sedentary screen time.

The bulk of W.H.O.’s new guidelines focus not on the details of screen time, but on activity level. The guidelines go on to state:

  • Children ages 1-5 should spend at least 3 hours a day engaged in physical activity.
  • Infants should be active several times throughout the day, including at least 30 minutes of tummy time.
  • Children should not be restrained (for example in a carseat or stroller) for more than an hour at a time.

The guidelines also state that, when sedentary, children are better off engaged with a caregiver than a screen.

The issue the guidelines aim to address is not screens’ inherent harmfulness, but rather children’s increasingly sedentary lifestyle, to which screen time can contribute.

How We Make Sure Screen Time Doesn’t Replace More Important Things

While our house rules around screens allow for a bit more screen time than W.H.O. recommends, the philosophy I base those rules on aligns with W.H.O.’s underlying rationale.

Rather than simply limiting screen time and hoping the rest works out, our family takes a holistic view of the day, making sure we get adequate physical activity, intellectual stimulation, and bonding time in addition to relaxing with screens.

One way to do this is with a checklist of things that need to get done before screen time, including physical activity, reading, and bonding activities. (The one we use is available in my Etsy shop. I’m also happy to make custom ones- just contact me through my Etsy shop!)

Also keep in mind that screen time does not have to be sedentary! Check out these screen time options to keep kids moving.

The bottom line is this- screen time is fine in moderation. Just make sure your kids also engage in other activities sufficient to keep them physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy.

Looking for other activity ideas? Check out my other blog, Adventure School!

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