Children under two years of age should not use screens at all, according to the new advice from the Swedish Paediatric Society. Children between the ages of 2-5 are recommended to use screens for no more than one hour a day.
Research indicates that children’s development can be negatively affected if they start using screens too early. Among other things, screens can block important training during the early years that the child needs during that developmental period. A later screen debut is also linked to better language development. Studies suggest that there is also a correlation between early use of screens and poorer development of cognitive abilities as well as risks for myopia and overweight, the Swedish Paediatric Society points out in their new advice.
The Swedish Paedriatic Society’s advice is in line with the public health authorities of both Norway and Denmark, which also discourage screen time for children under two years of age. The World Trade Organization has also advised completely against screens for 1-year-olds since their advice was issued in 2019.
Both the National Agency for Education and the Public Health Agency are currently in the process of developing their own recommendations. The Swedish Paediatric Society had initially intended to publish their advice in conjunction with the completion of those investigations, but it may take an additional one or two years, and they believe that the recommendations are in demand now, which is why they chose to publish them.
– We think there is such a great demand from the public, child health centers, and preschools, and at the same time research has accumulated. There has been so much research on small children, screen time, and language development that we feel we must share this with the country’s parents, says Ulrika Ådén, chairperson of the Swedish Paediatric Society, to the tax-financed SVT.
The Swedish Paediatric Society believes that it is the engagement of adults that is important for children’s development and that children in no way miss out on anything when they do not learn to use screens early.
“Children learn best in interaction with adults, and there is still no evidence that digital tools could be as good at teaching your child new things as you are”, the recommendations state.
Furthermore, they advise against using screens to divert negative emotions, instead recommending bringing along a small toy or book if needed.
“If you distract or comfort the child with a screen, this risks creating more conflicts, more nagging about screens over time, as well as preventing the child from developing their ability to regulate their emotions in the best way”.