New health guidelines for kids

Local News

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — It’s no secret parenting can be hard. There’s a barrage of suggestions and guidelines from family, friends and doctors. Now there’s a new list of suggestions.

This list comes from the World Health Organization. It breaks down suggested screen time, sedentary behavior, physical activity and sleep patterns for kids under five.

Mother-of-two, Becky Matakas, says life is about balance. But she has to find a balance that generations of parents before here never did. For example, Matakas embraces screen time.

“It’s a technological world. We’re gonna have to live with it. That’s how they’re growing up, they know more about computers than I ever will,” she says. Her 9-year-old has to earn screen time because she already gets a lot of it at school, but things are different for her toddler. The TV is on throughout the day while she works from home

“She gets the screen all day long — whether she pays attention to it or not is up to her … She already knows how to count to 10, she knows her ABCs, she’s only two. TV has taught her that, unfortunately,” says Matakas.

The battle that she faces is one that parents all over the world deal with. “I feel like they crave it a little more than I’d like them to. But at the same time, it’s a good reward system,” she says.

That’s why the World Health Organization, or WHO, put out these guidelines. They haven’t given guidelines like these for this age group ever before. Pediatrician Alexis Orama is glad they did.

“I think it was time that this was addressed kind of on a bigger scale — bring more attention to it, shine more light on it. This is all the newer generations know. And so just by ignoring it and offering the screens non stop we don’t know the problems that it can cause later on in terms of children’s growth, their social development, their education,” says Orama.

Here’s how the new rules break down:

Kids who are one and under are not recommended to have any screen time. Two, three and four-year-olds should have an hour or less a day. Kids under five should also not be restrained for more than one hour at a time, in a high chair or stroller, for example.

“Managing emotions, impulsivity and all those things are not taught on devices. So that comes best from interacting with others and peers and co play with your parents,” says Dr. Orama. 

Physical activity and sleep are also important. WHO says babies need at least 30 minutes of “tummy time” a day, and 14 to 17 hours of sleep, including naps. Toddlers should get three hours of play every day, and sleep for 11 to 14 hours. Three and four-year-olds should play the same amount, but do more vigorous activity. They need to sleep for 10 to 13 hours.

All of that sleep needs to be quality, which is another thing Matakas embraces.

“Half hour before bed, TVs are off, otherwise they’re wound up and they don’t concentrate on sleep,” says Matakas.

It’s important to note — these are just guidelines, so parents don’t need to beat themselves up if they’re not getting it quite right.

“You know parenting is challenging at times and there are times when a device might be helpful like a long car road or an airplane trip,” says Dr. Orama.

Matakas says she doesn’t plan on changing what she does. She tries to balance TV time with play dates, swim and karate lessons, plus trips to the library … and she would encourage others to do to the same.

“I try to work within my limits in my life, on how that works for us,” says Matakas.

For a complete list of the new guidelines from WHO, you can click here.

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