The romp on the trampoline is healthy, but television is recommended for toddlers at best in the literal sense. (Photo: Daniel Hofer)
For the first time, the World Health Organization has made official recommendations on what everyday life should be like for small children.
According to this, children should not have access to televisions and smartphones until the age of two - limited to one hour a day.
Even babies should spend at least 30 minutes of their awake time on the stomach to stimulate motor development. For children over one year, at least three hours of physical activity per day is recommended.
Are these children still romping through the grass from morning to night, cuddling in between and stacking building blocks? The evening, the wind-broken hair brushed, happy and promptly slide into the unclouded sleep? Who then wake up full of exuberance, because there is so much to discover out there: leaves, picture books, ball games? What sounds rather nostalgic for many Western civilization residents has just been declared an ideal state by the World Health Organization (WHO). For the first time, the agency has made official recommendations on what the everyday lives of young children should look like.
The optimal day of under five years is therefore largely free of screens of all kinds. At the age of two children should have access to televisions and smartphones - limited to a maximum of one hour daily. After all, that's half an hour more than the Federal Center for Health Education in Germany sees fit.
Among other things, the WHO's limit values follow the national guidelines provided by Canadian scientists. These had their assessment above all justified by the fact that the aufmotzten, often with much effort on child fitness trimmed programs of the digital media offer less learning experiences than old-fashioned picture books or games, but are extremely seductive. The WHO guideline also considers puzzles, painting or storytelling more valuable than the consumption of electronic media. In principle, however, WHO experts want to limit any type of sedentary activity.
Car seats, strollers and slings should never be used for more than an hour
This is especially true for seating where children are strapped in or otherwise restricted in their movements: car seats, strollers, high chairs and slings should never be used for more than one hour, according to the agency. Children who are able to move as freely as possible would have better health values, it is said somewhat nebulous in the justification.
About physical exercise says the WHO guideline: The more, the better. Even babies should spend at least 30 minutes of their awake time on their bellies, because this probably promotes motor development. As soon as they can move forward, they should be allowed to give in as often as possible to the urge to do so. For all children over the age of one year, at least three hours of physical activity per day is recommended. By this the authors understand everything between normal running and the breathtaking race.
The experts also provide exact values for sleep. In the first three months, the little ones should sleep a total of 14 to 17 hours a day, twelve to 16 hours in the following nine months. For one- and two-year-olds, bed rest from eleven to fourteen hours is recommended, with ten to 13 hours being sufficient in the next two years.
The authors justify all of these recommendations primarily with the prevention of obesity, which should start as soon as possible. The combination of lots of exercise, little screen time and enough sleep seems promising. There are indications, for example, that too little sleep can lead to sluggishness and thus overweight. In contrast, daily, extensive exercise seems to be associated with a lower risk of losing too many pounds. Studies also suggest that exercise and good sleep can positively affect children's motor, cognitive and psychological development.
Overall, however, the quality of evidence for referrals in this age group is very low, as the WHO acknowledges. The safest way to justify the advice is that a lot of exercise does not harm healthy children.
The implementation of the recommendations requires time, leisure and tenacity
To make matters worse, the experts have not really considered how acceptable and workable their recommendations are for the many different parents in the world. The implementation of the guideline values requires safe environments, adequate climatic conditions and appropriate cultural norms. It takes time, leisure, tenacity that not everyone has.
In some places women have to carry their small children on their backs for longer periods in order to be able to work at the same time. And even the parents, who are blessed with time, experience again and again that their offer to look at a pedagogically valuable book on water cycles fails colossally when at the same time shrill cartoon characters romp across the screen. The authors of the guideline do not mention specific tips or health measures that could help parents to promote physical activity.