Most under-5s are breaking the limits on screen time

Most under-5s are breaking the limits on screen time amid fears over-exposure could be linked to behaviour issues, data suggests

  • Only a quarter of children under two meeting recommendations for screen time
  • And one in three aged two to five are meeting screen time recommendations
  • Global guidelines suggest infants younger than two avoid screen time altogether
  • While children aged two to five should spend no longer than an hour a day in front of one 

The majority of children aged five and younger are not meeting screen time limits, global analysis suggests.

Only a quarter of children under two, and one in three aged two to five, are meeting international recommendations, according to the study.

Global guidelines suggest infants younger than two avoid screen time altogether, while children aged two to five should spend no more than an hour a day in front of one.

Only a quarter of children under two, and one in three aged two to five, are meeting international recommendations, according to the study (stock image)

Earlier studies have shown there may be a link between screen use and behavioural problems or poor development.

In the Jama Paediatrics journal, the scientists from the University of Calgary, Canada, looked at data from 63 studies.

They wrote that ‘digital media are now a regular part of young children’s lives’, and supporting families to fit screen time guidelines into daily routines ‘needs to be a priority’.

The American Academy of Paediatrics created the recommendations in 2016.

The World Health Organisation and paediatric societies worldwide have adopted similar guidelines since.

Writing in the journal, the study authors said: ‘Given how many children exceed screen-time guidelines, industry elimination of ads from programming and apps directed at children, would support healthier outcomes.

‘Digital media are now a regular part of young children’s lives, and supporting families to best fit evidence-based recommendations into their daily routines needs to be a priority.’

For children aged two to five, there was a greater likelihood of meeting the guideline when screen-use limits were designated as two hours daily, instead of one.

According to the scientists, the finding that a higher proportion of children are meeting the two-hour daily guideline is important because it suggests that for many families only minor adjustments may be needed to meet the recommendation of one hour a day.

The researchers based their findings on data from 63 studies, with a total of 89, 163 participants, which mainly looked at responses to questionnaires, but some also included interviews.

For children aged two to five, there was a greater likelihood of meeting the guideline when screen-use limits were designated as two hours daily, instead of one (stock image)

For children younger than two, a large portion of the studies looked at screen use to watch TV/movies, or a combination of TV/movies and/or computers, mobile use and video games.

A minority examined the use of tablets or computer use.

For children aged two to five, a large portion of studies examined screen use via watching TV/movies exclusively, and a majority of studies used a combination of TV/movies and/or computers, tablets, and video games.

The researchers conclude: ‘Young children are the fastest-growing users of digital media, and parents often report that their child’s screen use is a top parenting concern.

‘This meta-analysis demonstrates that the majority of children five years and younger are not meeting screen-time guidelines.’

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