Let kids be more active, say doctors
Dubai - The World Health Organisation (WHO) issued new guidelines that said children under five must spend less time sitting watching screens.
Bring back play for children, said doctors in UAE while responding to renewed calls to keep children under five away from screens for a healthy future.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday issued new guidelines that said children under five must spend less time sitting watching screens, or restrained in prams and seats, get better quality sleep and have more time for active play if they are to grow up healthy.
The guidelines resonate in the UAE where childhood obesity will continue to rise affecting 14.62 per cent of its '20 years and under' population by 2020, according to the World Obesity Federation.
"What we really need to do is bring back play for children," said Dr Juana Willumsen, WHO focal point for childhood obesity and physical activity. "This is about making the shift from sedentary time to playtime, while protecting sleep."
The pattern of overall 24-hour activity is the key: Replacing prolonged restrained or sedentary screen time with more active play, while making sure young children get enough good-quality sleep. Quality sedentary time spent in interactive non-screen-based activities with a caregiver, such as reading, storytelling, singing and puzzles, is very important for child development.
The new guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for children were developed by a WHO panel of experts. They assessed the effects on young children of inadequate sleep, and time spent sitting watching screens or restrained in chairs and prams. They also reviewed evidence around the benefits of increased activity levels.
Dr Rajeev Tomar, consultant paediatrician at King's College Hospital London, Dubai Marina, said that it is vital that there is a comprehensive national discussion about how to ensure the wellness of children as technology continues to advance at a rapid rate.
"Obesity and its associated complications are a silent tsunami, and various government and non-governmental institutions need to contribute and take action," he said.
Parents need to understand the difference between "screen time" and "screen use" when determining restrictions for their children. "Placing limits on technology use is important. Keep in mind how your child is using their screens, not just for how long.
This will help make restrictions more meaningful and effective in limiting the kinds of behaviours you want to restrict," said Dr Rajeev.
Dr Abhijeet Trivedi, specialist, paediatrics & neonatology at Aster Hospital, Mankhool, said that improving physical activity, reducing sedentary time and ensuring quality sleep in young children will improve their physical and mental health and wellbeing.
"This will help prevent childhood obesity and associated diseases later in life," he said. He added that early initiation of breastfeeding can also control obesity later in life.
If healthy physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep habits are established early in life, this helps shape habits through childhood, adolescence and into adulthood. Applying the recommendations in these guidelines during the first five years of life will contribute to children's motor and cognitive development and lifelong health.