Tummy timetables: World Health Organization offers lifestyle advice for children

Tummy timetables: World Health Organization offers lifestyle advice for children

Similarly, the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines also recommend no screen time for children under the age of two, other than video chats like FaceTime, for example.

For Infants under 1, no screen time at all. However, both sets of advice did not specify a time children should spend using screens.

The guidelines recommend for children in this age group to spend at least 180 minutes a day in a variety of physical activities, with at least 60 of those minutes involving moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activities such as games outdoors that require frequent running or jumping.

With obesity posing a rising public health threat and 80 percent of adolescents "not sufficiently physically active", WHO said it was time to outline best practices for children under five - a crucial period for lifestyle development. Infants under one should interact in floor-based play and avoid all screens, it said.

There also is debate over whether all screen time is created equal.

This will improve their mental health and help prevent childhood obesity and associated diseases later in life, Dr. Fiona Bull, WHO's program manager for population-based prevention of noncommunicable diseases, said in a statement. "For those aged 2 years, sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better".

Overall, children under five must spend less time sitting and watching screens, but also spend less sedentary time sitting in strollers and auto seats, according to the recommendations.

It also recommended that children aged one to two should have 11 to 14 hours of sleep, and kids aged two to four ten to 13 hours a day, including daytime naps. Indeed, children in that age bracket shouldn't be restrained for more than an hour at a time, and while sedentary they ought to be engaged in reading and storytelling with a caregiver, the World Health Organization says.

But several experts noted that WHO's broad recommendations were based on thin evidence, and chastised the agency for adopting overly simplistic definitions of key terms, notably "sedentary screen time".

3- to 4-year-olds shouldn't go over one hour of screen time.

Concerns about screen time begin well before children start reaching for their parents' iPads and smartphones, said Emily Oster, a professor of economics at Brown University and the author of "Cribsheet: a Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting".

World Health Organization did not specifically detail the potential harm caused by too much screen time, but said the guidelines - which also included recommendations for physical activity and sleep - were needed to address the increasing amount of sedentary behavior in the general population.

One in three adults today are overweight or obese, and one in four adults does not do enough physical activity, she said.

"None would contest the fact that increasing physical activity, sleep, and health are important goals and it is possible that screens impact young people in a wide range of ways but we won't know that until good scientific studies are done".

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