Study links restricting screen time for kids to higher mental performance

Henrietta Strickland
September 27, 2018

The researchers compared the results with national guidelines for children's health.

The study reports that on average, US children spend almost 3.6 hours per day looking at a screen for recreation.

Researchers discovered, by analysing United States children's data for eight to 11-year-old, the more of the recommendations a child fulfilled, the better their cognition.

Writing in a linked Comment, Dr Eduardo Esteban Bustamante, from the University of Illinois, USA, said the findings suggest that too much screen time could mean children's brains had too little time to recover from the strain of each day.

The advice, which forms part of the Canadian 24-hour Movement guidelines, includes nine to 11 hours of sleep, less than two hours recreational screen time and at least one hour of physical activity a day.

"Behaviours and day-to-day activities contribute to brain and cognitive development in children, and physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and sleep might independently and collectively affect cognition", said Jeremy Walsh, of CHEO Research Institute in Canada.

"These findings highlight the importance of limiting recreational screen time and encouraging healthy sleep to improve cognition in children", the study's authors wrote. Google has also introduced new features to limit screen time and monitor use on Android devices. More research into the links between screen time and cognition is now needed, including studying the effect of different types of screen time, whether content is educational or entertainment, and whether it requires focus or involves multitasking.

The study, published Wednesday in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, found that 51% of US kids met the sleep guidelines; 37% stayed within screen time parameters; and 18% reached the exercise recommendation.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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