1hr limit on screen time for toddlers

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For 1-year-olds, sedentary screen time (such as watching TV or videos, playing computer games) is not recommended. Sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better.

Infants less than one year old should not be exposed to electronic screens at all, it added.

Children between one and four years old should spend at least three hours in a variety of physical activities spread throughout the day, it said.

Radesky also said that Silicon Valley, which over the past year has introduced a number of tools to help parents limit children's screen time, could go farther by improving those tools and also designing services in ways less likely to encourage heavy use by children. But overall, the group said parents should "prioritize creative, unplugged play time for infants and toddlers".

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There also is debate over whether all screen time is created equal. When sedentary, children should be engaging in activities such as reading, storytelling, puzzles and singing with a caregiver instead, the agency said in a press release published Wednesday.

The World Health Organization has issued its first-ever guidance for how much screen time children under 5 should get: not very much, and none at all for those under 1. Children aged one to two years old should spend at least 180 minutes being active and 11 to 14 hours sleeping, the report states.

Tim Smith, Reader in Cognitive Psychology, Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck, University of London, said: "In recent months United Kingdom parents of 0- to five-year-olds and early-years practitioners have been bombarded with conflicting recommendations and guidelines about how and whether they should be managing their children's screen time and sedentary behaviour, e.g. from the RCPCH and Chief Medical Officers". Features that discourage breaks, such as YouTube's default "auto-play" feature, are a frequent source of complaint among consumer advocates who say technology companies are encouraging compulsive behavior by children who lack adult self-control. Sleep should be between 11-14 hours, but equally important are "regular sleep and wake-up times" to build consistency.

Tim Smith of Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birbeck, University of London described that distinction as "an oversimplification of the many ways young children and their families engage with screen media".

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The WHO's rules track loosely with those of other public health groups in the United States and elsewhere, which typically have urged limited screen time and copious personal interaction and sleep for preschoolers.

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".

Fiona Bull, programme manager for the prevention of non-communicable diseases at World Health Organization, told reporters that the authors were fully confident in the strength of the guidelines. "Make sleep and physical activity a priority", she said.

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