WHO Releases New Screen Time Guidelines for Children below Five

Category: Health


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. prolonged / prəˈlɑːŋd / (adj) – taking longer than expected

    I feel worried about my student’s prolonged absence. She has not been attending classes for two weeks now.

  2. sedentary / ˈsɛd nˌtɛr i / (adj) – without much movement or physical activity

    A sedentary lifestyle can increase a person’s risk of obesity.

  3. adequate / ˈæd ɪ kwɪt / (adj) – having enough of what is needed

    Doctors advise their patients to get adequate sleep at night.

  4. critique / krɪˈtik / (v) – to give comments on the good and bad aspects of something

    The professor critiqued the medical student’s thesis proposal.

  5. crucial / ˈkru ʃəl / (adj) – very important or necessary

    A good diet and regular exercise are crucial to a healthy lifestyle.


Read the text below.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released new guidelines on screen time limits for young children.

According to the new guidelines, two- to four-year-old-children should limit their screen time, or the period spent passively staring at electronic screens, to only one hour a day. Meanwhile, children aged one and below should not get any screen time at all.

Developed by a panel of experts from the WHO, the guidelines are based on scientific evidence highlighting the dangers of gadget exposure to children’s health. Prolonged screen time has been associated with health problems, such as obesity and sleep disorders, among children.

According to a program manager for the WHO, children’s overall physical and mental well-being will improve once the guidelines are followed. Children are also expected to lessen their sedentary behavior, get adequate sleep, and engage in more physical activities.

The WHO hopes that the guidelines will help children adopt good long-term lifestyle habits and avoid acquiring life-threatening diseases in the future.

With the release of the new guidelines, some groups felt that the WHO was not able to recognize digital media’s possible benefits. The Oxford Internet Institute’s director of research critiqued the WHO’s guidelines. He argued that there is too much focus on the amount of screen time without considering the content children view on the screens and how screen time is actually being utilized.

In contrast, a psychiatry professor at Yale mentioned that the guidelines are timely and crucial in this day and age when parents need to be prepared to raise their children in a digital environment.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you think issuing guidelines is enough to help regulate children's screen time? Why or why not?
• Do you think parents in your country should follow the WHO’s new screen time guidelines? Explain.

Discussion B

• Aside from the WHO’s recommendations, in what other ways can parents help their children adopt good long-term lifestyle habits? Discuss.
• Apart from health organizations such as the WHO, what other institutions should be responsible in developing awareness of children’s health issues?