Report at a Glance
Limiting Children’s Screen Time
The lives of young children are permeated by media—television, videos, digital media, video games, mobile media, and the Internet. The committee’s recommendation to limit two– to five-year-old children’s exposure to screen time is related to two issues, both of which have the potential to contribute to early childhood obesity: the food and beverage marketing children may experience when they are watching television or interacting with other media, and the amount of overall screen time to which they are exposed. Because of these concerns, the committee recommends that healthcare providers counsel parents and other caregivers of children not to place televisions or other media in young children’s bedrooms. The committee also recommends that HHS use media in a positive way by launching a social marketing campaign to provide consistent messages to parents and caregivers of young children about obesity prevention strategies.
Evidence suggests a decrease in sleep duration across infancy, childhood, and adolescence over the last 20 years, with the most pronounced decreases among children under three years of age. Mounting epidemiologic evidence indicates that short duration of sleep is a risk factor for obesity among all age groups, including infants and children under the age of five. Child care providers should adopt practices that promote healthy sleep durations, and healthcare providers should counsel parents on these issues.
What happens to a child during the first years of life is important to their current and future health and well-being throughout childhood and adolescence and into adulthood. However, national efforts to prevent obesity have not paid enough attention to infants, toddlers, and preschool children. The committee’s report highlights the urgent need for early prevention. Its recommendations are pertinent to healthcare and child care providers and to other stakeholders, and they detail how and why we should ensure access to healthy foods, create safe play areas, and make other changes to the environment that support families’ efforts to prevent obesity and maintain healthy lifestyles. Too many of our youngest children are overweight or obese, and all of the influencers in their lives need to understand both the implications of that trend and how to contribute toward its prevention.