Too much screen time, too little horseplay for kids

Too much screen time, too little horseplay for kids

A Canadian research team looked at data from 4,500 USA children ages 8 to 11 and compared the kids' self-reported screen use to their performance on a test that measures markers of brain development.

Nineteen out of 20 children in the US failed to meet the lifestyle benchmarks.

The children and their parents completed questionnaires and different measures to estimate physical activity, sleep and screen time.

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 new study. They should also get nine to 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night in order to perform their best at school.

After comparing to two sets of children, wouldn't you know that the kids that met those guidelines, which included 9 to 11 hours of sleep, at least one hour of physical activity, and less than two hours of screen time actually had improved cognitive abilities and brain power?!

"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", Walsh said.

The strong link between time spent staring at a screen and brain function "potentially reflect the interruption of the stress-recovery cycle needed for growth in children", commented Eduardo Esteban Bustamante, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois' College of Applied Health Sciences who did not take part in the study.

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More screen time can also interfere with a healthy sleep schedule, which was the second more important guideline.

"It is tempting to take solace in findings that cognitively challenging screen activities can benefit cognition", he adds, "but, if given a choice, most children already consistently and predictably choose more stimulating screen activities over less stimulating ones".

Nearly one in three children (29% - 1,330/4,520) met none of the guidelines, 41% (1,845/4,520) met only one, 25% (1,129/4,520) met two, and 5% (216/4,520) met all three recommendations.

For screen time, parents should consider limiting smartphone, TV, or computer use to no more than two hours per day.

The children also underwent a cognition test, which assessed areas such as attention, language abilities, memory and processing speed.

Although there is substantial evidence for the association between physical activity and cognitive development, in this study meeting the physical activity recommendation alone showed no association with cognition. Some researchers argue children need more screen time, social media platforms, however, feel exiling young users is beneficial for them and even tech icons like Bill Gates have come forward to admit he doesn't let his kids use phones. The report said an average tween spends four and a half hours looking at screens for entertainment each day.

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