Limiting screen time improves cognition

Limiting screen time improves cognition

Limiting your child's recreational screen time to less than two hours a day, and ensuring sufficient sleep and physical activity, can significantly improve their brain function, a study has found.

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.

The study revealed that only 51% of the children got the recommended sleep time, 37% got the recommended screen time and 18% met the physical activity requirement. But compared to children who didn't meet any of the three guidelines, the researchers found, children with less screen time performed better on these same tests. The authors note this was a surprising finding and may suggest that the measure used may not have been specific enough.

It's recommended that children have nine to 11 hours of sleep per day, alongside an hour or more of physical activity, and less than two hours of screen time.

Dr. Eduardo Esteban Bustamante, an assistant professor of kinesiology and nutrition at the University of IL at Chicago who was not directly involved in the research, suggested that the study's findings about screen time may reflect interruption of important childhood growth cycles involving stress related to physical activity and recovery from sleep. The study controlled for household income, parental and child education, ethnicity, pubertal development, body mass index and whether the child had had a traumatic brain injury.

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In his commentary, Dr. Bustamante likens the problem of screen time to the challenge of the childhood obesity epidemic, and said that both have been propagated by their profitability to industry, convenience to parents, and pleasure for children.

The researchers found that only 5 percent of children met all three recommendations.

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. They were asked how much they sleep, how much they exercise and how much time they spend in front of screens.

In the study, children who met those guidelines were more likely to score well on tests, and showed positive mental development. 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.

Most of the ids also enjoyed extra screen time, as the average time was around 3.6 hours. A separate report released by Common Sense Media previous year revealed that children from age 0 to 8 spend an average of two hours and 19 minutes in front of a screen every day.

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