What does it mean for you?

You may have heard that the World Health Organisation has released its screen time guidelines for children under 5. These guidelines are actually part of larger group recommendations for physical activity and sleep for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers.

Here at Birde, this is a topic close to our hearts. Not only are we parents of young children but we are passionate about ensuring children can learn about technology without being consumed by it, as we talk about in our values.

So what do the recommendations say?

They recommend:

  • Infants up until the age of two shouldn’t have any screen time at all
  • Toddlers and pre-schoolers from 2-4 years should only have an hour of sedentary screen time a day.

The focus of the recommendations is to increase physical activity. They don’t recommend for children to be restrained (eg in a pram or high chair) for more than an hour at one time.

They also recommend at least 3 hours of physical activity a day, dependent on the age of the child. In addition, there are recommendations for sleep based on the age of the child. For more detail on the recommendations, visit the WHO website.

What’s behind these recommendations

The WHO says that over 80% of adolescents and 23% of adults don’t get enough physical activity. The intention of these guidelines is to help people create good, healthy activity and sleeping habits early in life.

It’s also about increasing the number of interactive activities children do in their sedentary time, such as reading, puzzles, storytelling and singing.

According to WHO’s Dr Juana Willumsen: “What we really need to do is bring back play for children… This is about making the shift from sedentary time to playtime while protecting sleep.“

How do they compare to other guidelines?

They’re not too dissimilar to the guidelines released by the Australian Department of Health in November 2017.
For children under 5, their screen time recommendations include:
• Children under 18 months to avoid the use of screen media other than video-chatting
• Parents of children 18-24 months who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming and watch it with them
• Children age 2-5 should have screen use limited to 1 hour a day of high-quality programs.

What do the experts think?

As you can imagine, these recommendations have received attention from experts around the world. The general consensus is that they’re a sensible goal for parents to aim for, however, there are a few areas that need further discussion.

Family digital literacy expert and educator Dr Joanne Orlando spoke to Jacinta Tynan on Sky News Australia and noted that the WHO didn’t differentiate between the types of screen times.

“There’s definitely good quality content that helps them to develop their imagination, their creativity, their team-building skills and working with other kids. There are some really good things out there. I think in some ways, the World Health Organisation should have looked at screen time but they should have also looked at screen quality,” she said.

Many other experts have also weighed in, saying shaming parents with such rigid guidelines isn’t going to inspire change.

Dr Max Davie from the UK’s Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health told the Guardian: “While it is important for children to be as active as possible, the barriers are more frequently to do with housing, work patterns, family stress, and lack of access to play spaces rather than actively choosing to be sedentary.”

What do we think?

As parents, we believe only we can make the right decision for our family. We aim to give parents the chance to provide educational and entertaining music, video and audiobook content for their young children (with no exposure to advertising or the internet).

With our world first media player, we make it easier to limit screen time with our screen time controls in our TV app. Or if you don’t want to introduce a screen with Birde, you don’t have to. All of our video content plays in audio-only version, so your kids can listen (and dance) along to a Wiggles Video Seed and not watch the pictures at all.

Plus all the video, music and audiobook content on our platform has been chosen by us. We find content that is both educational and heaps of fun. You choose what you want your child to listen to or watch, so you know that it’s safe and appropriate for them. One less thing to worry about!

Find out more on our website.