How Much Screen Time Is Too Much For Young Kids? Here's What New Guidelines Say05:38
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There has been rapid change in recent years when it comes to how children interact with screens. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)
There has been rapid change in recent years when it comes to how children interact with screens. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

Unsure about how much screen time is too much for your young child?

The World Health Organization has released strict new guidelines that offer this answer:

  • None for kids younger than 2 years old
  • Just 60 minutes per day for 3- to 4-year-olds

"We're concerned — and the evidence shows — that extended periods of time passively watching screens is detrimental to health, particularly for very young children," says WHO's Fiona Bull, who oversaw the process behind the new recommendations, which are focused on kids under 5 years old.

The organization undertook creating the guidelines amid concerns from member countries about rising levels of childhood obesity, she says.

There has been rapid change in recent years when it comes to how children interact with screens, and more research is needed to determine excessive screen time's effects on how kids develop, Bull tells Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson. But the existing findings have revealed some troubling trends.

"There's detriments in the areas of cognitive development, language skills, even motor skills," she says. "There are alternatives, [like] interacting with children through play, so they're experiencing physical and motor development, muscular-skeletal development, cognitive and language development — all the things which are all part of a healthy development for [under-5-year-olds.]"

Parents might be wondering: Won't these guidelines be difficult to adhere to? Bull says the screen-time restrictions still leave room for family time like watching TV or playing an educational game — it's continuous, passive use for lengthy periods of time to watch out for.

Ultimately, the goal is to promote physical activity, limit sedentary time and ensure kids are also getting enough sleep (between 10 and 13 hours per night.)

"There will always be times [like] rest and relaxation and enjoyment of a movie," Bull says. "These [guidelines] are practical when they get better known, better understood, and ... parents have been calling for this kind of guidance about how much is advisable and how much isn't."


Ashley Bailey produced this interview and edited it for broadcast with Kathleen McKenna. Jack Mitchell adapted it for the web.

This segment aired on April 25, 2019.

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