There also is debate over whether all screen time is created equal.
1-2 year old kids should be spending at least three hours each day engaged in physical activities, too.
"Achieving health for all means doing what is best for health right from the beginning of people's lives", said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
One of the most striking suggestions a World Health Organization panel of experts suggested is that children under the age of five should get no more than one hour of "sedentary" screen time, adding that "less is better".
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Professor Andrew Przybylski, director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute at Oxford University, agreed that while restricting screen time among young children appeared to "make sense.in many ways the conclusions drawn about screens are out of step with scientific evidence of harm".
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Some fear that too much screen time reduces the time kids spent connecting and engaging with their caregivers, which is seen as crucial for their social and emotional development. Screen time for them is not recommended at all. Failure to meet current physical activity recommendations is responsible for more than 5 million deaths globally each year across all age groups.
The guidelines also recommended that young children spend sedentary time engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver rather than watching screens.
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Children aged 1 to 2 also should get plenty of quality sleep every day: between 11 and 14 hours, including naps, according to the guidelines.
Previous WHO guidance on "screen time" for children had already placed restrictions on the amount of sedentary time young children should spend watching TV and playing with gadgets like smartphones and tablets. "What we really need to do is bring back play for children". Sleep should be between 11-14 hours, but equally important are "regular sleep and wake-up times" to build consistency.
The WHO's rules track loosely with those of other public health groups in the United States and elsewhere, which typically have urged limited screen time and copious personal interaction and sleep for preschoolers. For example, the academy similarly recommends to avoid digital media use for children younger than 24 months and to limit screen time to an hour a day for children 2 to 5. These guidelines are a good reminder of how to stay healthy for the long term", said Shu, co-author of the book "Heading Home With Your Newborn: "From Birth to Reality".
One in five children in England are overweight or obese by the time they start primary school, rising to one in three by the time they leave.
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The new guidelines are "straightforward" and "give parents some parameters to follow when it comes to sleep, physical activity and limiting screen time", said Dr. Jennifer Shu, an Atlanta-based pediatrician and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, who was not involved in the World Health Organization guidelines.