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Sleep, Play and Screentime

Children need the right amounts of sleep and play for growth and health. They also need plenty of active play or movement. Screentime actively takes away from quality of sleep and active play time in many, many children’s lives.

Sleep and play are so important, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued guidelines in respect of how much children need at different stages of development, as well the amount of screentime children should be limited to. Link to WHO article.

Here are guidelines for sleep, active play and screentime per age group.

Babies under 2 years of age

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Photo by thedanw on Pixabay

There should be no screen time at all for babies under two years old. They do not need to watch TV or devices to be entertained. When you talk and sing and smile at them, this is entertainment and play for babies.

Babies need physical play on the floor as much as possible, at least 30 minutes of time on their tummy per day which can be spread through the day at about 5 minutes per time. They should not be restrained in prams or car seats or on a caregiver’s back for more than one hour at a time.

Babies need between 12 and 16 hours of sleep per 24 hours.

2 – 3 year olds

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Photo by ddimitrova on Pixabay

A maximum of one hour or less of screen time per day is recommended for toddlers.

Your toddler needs at least 3 hours per day actively playing on the floor or in the garden. They should not be restrained in a pram, car seat, or on a caregiver’s back for longer than an hour at a time.

They need between 11 and 14 hours of sleep per 24 hours. This includes daytime naps. There is a fairly big variation as every child is different. My son refused a day time nap from when he was 2 years old. He coped quite well without it, however, my daughter did not and so we helped her have a day time nap for as long as possible.

3 years – 4 year olds

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Photo by cherylholt on Pixabay

A maximum of one hour or less of screen time per day is recommended. Teach your child to always ask your permission for screentime and set parental controls on all devices to minimize the risk of exposure to inappropriate content.

Children of this age need at least 3 hours per day of active play and movement and between 10 and 13 hours of sleep per 24 hours. This includes naps. The time is a variable as each child is different, you will have to play “detective” a bit to find out just how much sleep your child needs at this age.

5 years – 12 years

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Photo by 12138562 on Pixabay

It is recommended that children in this age group have one hour or less of screen time per day.

They should be spending most of their time every day when they are not in school using their bodies to play rather than sitting still.  Childhood obesity has risen in an alarming fashion over the past couple of decades. There are many complex reasons for this, but increasing active play and ensuring your child has enough sleep mitigates against unwanted fat and promotes healthy growth and development.

Children at this age learn the most from being with their peers and too much screentime can be harmful to their social development.

They need 9 to 12 hours of sleep per 24 hours.

Teenagers

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Photo by danuwira01 on Pixabay

It is recommended that that teenagers have two hours or less of screentime per day.

And here’s something that may be really surprising, it is recommended that adults also have two hours of screen time a day! If you work at a computer all day this is obviously an impossible guideline. But this screentime refers to use of screens for entertainment and social media scrolling. For teenagers who use devices in the school context, it is important that they have healthy downtime away from devices for their ocular health as much as for their physical, mental and social health.

Teach your teen about age restrictions and why there are age restrictions on games, movies and programmes. For example, if your teenager is 14 but they want to watch a programme that is for 16 years and older, talk about why it is not appropriate. It usually tells you that the programme contains sex/nudity/violence.

Teach your child to always ask your permission for screentime, even if they have their own phone. This is a privilege and not a right.

Be curious about your teenager’s screentime. Ask them what they games they love to play and ask to play it with them. Ask them about their favourite programmes and what characters they like and dislike.

Teenagers should have at least an hour a day of exercise. This includes formal and informal movement to make use of their muscles.

They need 9 to 12 hours of sleep a day. Sometimes they may sleep more, and sometimes they may sleep a bit less.

What is too much screen time?

Your child is having too much screen time when…

  • They choose to be inside on a screen, rather than outside playing with friends all the time.
  • They are no longer interested in other things, they are only interested in being on a screen.
  • They are not doing any movement activities or exercise.
  • They have lost interest in everything else except screens.
  • They ask/demand screentime constantly.

What do you think of these guidelines? What do you notice about the guidelines compared to your children’s habits/routines?

 

 


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