WHO recommends one-hour maximum screen time per day for under-5s

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Children aged two to four should not be allowed more than one hour of “sedentary screen time” per day. At the same time, infants aged less than a year should not be exposed to electronic screens at all, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.

The United Nations agency, issuing its first such guidelines, yesterday said under-fives should also be physically active and get adequate sleep to help develop good lifelong habits and prevent obesity and other diseases in later life.

Sedentary screen time, WHO said, includes watching television or videos and playing computer games.

“Healthy physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep habits are established early in life, providing an opportunity to shape habits through childhood, adolescence and into adulthood,” the WHO said.

Children aged between one and four years should spend at least three hours in a variety of physical activities spread throughout the day, it said. Infants under one should interact in floor-based play and avoid all screens, it said.

Being inactive is a “leading risk factor” for mortality and fuels the global rise in overweight and obesity, the WHO said.

In a report in 2017, WHO said the number of obese children and adolescents worldwide had jumped tenfold to 120 million in the past 40 years.