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No screen-time for babies: shock new warning for parents

NEW early childhood movement guidelines encourage parents to severely restrict screen-time and to aim for three hours of physical activity a day.

The Australian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years (Birth to five years), which were launched by the  Health Minister Greg Hunt this week, give Aussie parents a strong framework to set up their child's day, spelling out precisely how much sleep, physical activity and sedentary time kids should have in a 24 hour period.

The Guidelines also explain how much time young children should have in front of a screen. The answer to that question? None. And with good reason, experts say.

"Certainly the fast and quick transitions that we see on screens, the bright flashing lights and the impact that has on the developing brain is something that we need to be mindful of," University of Wollongong early childhood expert Tony Okely warned.

"Also how it might limit or minimise communication or language development among young children as well because it's taking place of conversations that might happen."

Luke Arundel from Optometry Australia agreed. "We have long campaigned for parents to consider the balance between 'screen time' versus 'green time' as part of safeguarding our children's vision.

"Australian research predicts an imminent global epidemic of myopia, or short-sightedness, which already affects about 30 per cent of the world's population," Mr Arundel said.

"That figure is expected to rise to 50 per cent by 2050 and researchers believe this is linked to the amount of time children are spending indoors which, in our digital age, very often means more time on screens.

"The guidelines announced [on Tuesday] not only support our concerns which relate primarily to eye health, but suggest too much screen time can negatively impact babies and children in a myriad of ways."

So what do they actually say?

The new Guidelines are broken down by age.

For infants under 12 months, parents are encouraged to engage with children in "supervised interactive floor-based play" from birth, and for infants who aren't mobile the Guidelines suggest 30 minutes of tummy time spread over the course of the day. They should not be physically restrained in a car seat, high-chair or stroller for example for more than an hour a time, they should not have any screen-time at all and should be getting in between 12 and 17 hours of "good quality sleep" including naps over the day.

Toddlers should be getting in three hours of physical activity " including energetic play such as running, jumping and twirling spread throughout the day - noting more is better," the Guidelines say. They should not be restrained for longer than an hour at a time, and should try for between 11 and 14 hours of good sleep including naps.

Older children, three-years and above, should also be getting in three hours of physical activity "of which 60 minutes is energetic play such as running, jumping and kicking and throwing", should not be physically restrained or seated for long periods and should be trying for "10 to 13 hours of good quality sleep, which may include a nap, with consistent sleep and wake-up times".

For toddlers under two, the Guidelines say no screen-time at all. For toddlers aged over two, it's suggested parents should not allow "more than 1 hour in total throughout the 24-hour period -less is better." For both ages groups, when "sedentary, caregivers are encouraged to engage with them through activities such as reading, singing, puzzles and storytelling".

The new Guidelines were also welcomed Early Childhood Australia. Samantha Page from ECA believes they will also be useful for early childhood educators to create "daily routines that include physical activity such as play, as well as quiet activities like story time and rest time".

"Parents and early educators need to consider what kind of digital activity young children are engaged in, what the educational and/or social benefits are, how much physical movement is involved and what other non-digital activities are being displaced to ensure that children's use of digital technology maximises their educational, physical, emotional and social development," she said.

More details on the new Guidelines are available here.

This article originally appeared on Kidspot and has been republished here with permission.

Topics:  children editors picks parenting television warning

News Corp Australia

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