No screen time for babies; only 1 hour for kids under 5

A young child playing with an iPad

A young child playing with an iPad

"Improving the physical activity, sedentary and sleep time behaviors of young children will contribute to their physical health, reduce the risk of developing obesity in childhood and the associated non-communicable diseases in later life and improve mental health and well-being", the WHO said. They should not be restrained for more than one hour at a time or sit for extended periods.

The WHO defines sedentary screen time as "watching TV or videos or playing computer games".

Children under one year old need at least 30 minutes of tummy time and others under five at least 180 minutes of physical activities, says the World Health Organization.

"What exactly is "sedentary screen time" anyway?" asked McConway, one of several experts who took issue with WHO's use of the term.

Children shouldn't be restrained in a pram or high chair, or strapped to someone's back, for more than an hour at a time.

Instead, "when sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged", the organisation said of young children.

Spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of types of physical activities at any intensity, of which at least 60 minutes is moderate- to vigorous intensity physical activity, spread throughout the day; more is better. It also emphasized that this young kids need to be physically active and get enough sleep, habits that go along way in preventing obesity and other diseases later in life, the World Health Organization said.

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Despite acknowledging that its "strong recommendations" were based on "very low quality evidence", the United Nations health agency said its advice could apply to all young children, regardless of gender, cultural background or socio-economic status. In the first three months, infants should have 14 to 17 hours of sleep and those aged four to 11 months should get 12 to 16 hours of sleep.

The agency said infants less than 1 year should spend at least half an hour every day on their stomachs and that older kids should get at least three hours of physical activity every day.

Inadequate physical activity is directly linked to more than 5 million deaths worldwide, across all age groups, in a given year, according to the WHO.

Professor Andrew Przybylski, from the University of Oxford, said: "On the basis of common sense numerous recommendations make sense but in many ways the conclusions drawn about screens are out of step with scientific evidence of harm".

"Have 10-13h of good quality sleep, which may include a nap, with regular sleep and wake-up times".

"It is very much the passive screen time", she told reporters in Geneva.

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