Limited screen time good for children's brains

Limited screen time good for children's brains

Parents are all too familiar with the battle to get their children to stop playing video games or watching television to play outside instead.

As reported in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, nearly one-third (29% [1,330]) of the children did not meet any of the guidelines, 41% (1,845) met one recommendation; 25% (1,129) met two and just 5% (216) met all three.

Nearly 30% of the children didn't meet the recommendations, more than 40% met one, a quarter met two, and only 5% of the children met all three guidelines.

Only one in 20 kids in the United States meets guidelines on sleep, exercise and screen time, and almost a third are outside recommendations for all three, according to a study published on Thursday.

"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", says Dr Jeremy Walsh, CHEO Research Institute, Ottawa, Canada. Now, new research has proven that more than two hours of recreational screen time a day could seriously affect a child's learning.

Half of the children got enough sleep, 37% respected the screen-time limits, and 18% of them met the exercise recommendation.

Children also completed a cognition test, which assessed language abilities, memory, attention, and processing speed.

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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.

The Canadian study of 4,520 children aged eight to 11 found that USA kids spent an average of 3.6 hours a day in recreational screen use.

But the team claims following these guidelines in childhood, particularly for screen time, is key for mental development.

Children and parents completed questionnaires and measures at the outset of the trial to estimate the child's physical activity, sleep and screen time.

Limited screen time and improved sleep were associated with the strongest links to improved cognition. Newman was not involved with the new study.

"Each minute spent on screens necessarily displaces a minute from sleep or cognitively challenging activities", he said.

According to the study's authors, additional research is needed to better understand the effects of different kinds of screen time on cognition, and they point out that given the study's observational nature, it does not prove a causative link between screen time on cognition.

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