Our Gadget Addiction Is Making Little Babies Sick

Image: Steve Paine, CC BY-ND 2.0

Washington Post – Children younger than a year should not be exposed to any electronic screens, according to new guidelines put out this week by the World Health Organization.

The United Nations agency, issuing its first such guidelines, also recommended that children ages 1 to 2 have no “sedentary screen time” — including playing computer games or watching TV — and that kids 2 to 4 have no more than one hour per day.

The WHO emphasized that young kids need be physically active and get enough sleep, habits that go a long way in preventing obesity and other diseases later in life.

“Achieving health for all means doing what is best for health right from the beginning of people’s lives,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

“Early childhood is a period of rapid development and a time when family lifestyle patterns can be adapted to boost health gains.”

The action comes amid growing research into the developmental effects of the widespread use of computers and mobile devices by children.

One concern is that the mesmerizing effects of videos keep young children from connecting with their parents and others, a key facet in building the sophisticated social skills that are central to human development.

Surveys have consistently shown that children are being exposed to rising amounts of screen time, including by parents struggling to manage the moods and time demands of young children.

Many of the most popular channels on YouTube, for example, feature nursery rhymes, simplistic games and other content that appeal to preschoolers. (YouTube long has maintained that its service is intended for those 13 or older.)

“It’s extraordinarily important that someone with the authority and reach of the WHO is saying this,” said Josh Golin of the Campaign for a Commercial Free-Childhood, an advocacy group based in Boston.

Screen time, he noted, is “not essential to learning, and it’s not effective at teaching.” Read more. 

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