Norwegian health director to parents: “Do not use a screen as a babysitter”
The Norwegian Directorate of Health advices that children under the age of two should be kept away from screens, and that those up to the age of five should have a maximum of one hour of screen time a day.
“An important point for us is that screens should not be used as a babysitter because putting children in front of a screen to subdue them over a longer period of time is not beneficial,” health director Bjørn Guldvog tells NTB.
The Norwegian Directorate of Health recently presented new advice on physical activity and sitting positions. They are based on advice that the World Health Organization (WHO) presented in 2019 and 2020, but are somewhat adapted to a Norwegian context.
One of the new recommendations is that the Norwegian Directorate of Health now advises against any screen time for children under two years of age. Additionally, daily screen time for children between two and five years should be limited to one hour. The overriding idea is that less screen time is better for children.
Guldvog emphasises that they do not think it is harmful for children to have a little bit of screen time. He is also aware that screens can help provide children with digital skills and learning.
“The point here is that there must be a balance. For children between the ages of two and five, it's better to emphasise that they should be physically active and have social contact,” Guldvog says.
For slightly older children and young people, the directorate recommends limiting passive screen time in leisure time in particular.
Three hours of physical activity a day
It is also new that the Norwegian Directorate of Health recommends children aged one to five receive three hours of physical activity a day. In the past, the general advice has been that all children and young people should be in physical activity for at least one hour a day.
Since the majority of young children spend most of their time awake during weekdays in kindergarten, much of the responsibility for achieving the physical activity goals will fall on the employees there.
“Our impression is that kindergartens are good at activating the children through play and physical development. Thus, in many cases, the youngest children already abide by this advice,” says Guldvog.
Less physically active the older they get
For those between 6 and 17 years old, the advice is still one hour of physical activity a day.
The public health report from the National Institute of Public Health (NIPH), which came out last year, shows that the proportion of children that follow the recommendations for physical activity decreases with age:
- 6-year-olds - 87 per cent of girls and 94 per cent of boys are active enough.
- 9-year-olds - 64 per cent of girls and 81 per cent of boys are active enough.
- 15-year-olds - 40 per cent of girls and 51 per cent of boys are active enough.
All activity counts
Adults are still by far the worst at being physically active. According to the NIPH, only around 30 per cent of adults meet the recommendations for physical activity.
The Norwegian Directorate of Health now advises that all activity counts. This means that low-intensity physical activity, activities that are perceived as ‘light’, also count and are important to maintain good health.
“This is perhaps the most important new advice we are sharing. It is clear that just getting up and walking a little in the corridor, or moving a little, is important for your health. You do not need to train dedicatedly for at least ten minutes for it to affect your health. So for those who are looking for the simple solution, it's important to know that it also exists,” says Guldvog.
“If you look at the difference from being completely inactive to moving a little, then that is where the biggest health benefit lies,” he says.
Recommend strength training twice a week
Nevertheless, the directorate recommends that adults should be physically active for at least 150 to 300 minutes a week with moderate intensity per week, or at least 75 to 150 minutes of high-intensity activity, or a combination of moderate and high intensity. Part of this recommendation is strength training twice a week.
“What can adults do in everyday life in order to follow the advice about physical activity?”
“You should make it a routine to exercise or be physically active on the days you do not have appointments in the afternoon and evening. A couple of days a week you should train strength in the large muscle groups, and balance, but this does not necessarily have to be at the gym. You can also walk or cycle to work,” Guldvog says.
“Do you yourself meet the recommendations for physical activity?”
“Yes, I follow our own advice. I am active for at least an hour a day, often in a simple way by going for an evening walk with my wife or something similar. In addition, I cycle to work,” he says.
Translated by Alette Bjordal Gjellesvik.