Screens could be damaging your child’s cognition, study reveals

Too much screentime daily may damage kid's brain function

On average, children aged eight to 11 spent 3.6 hours per day glued to a TV, mobile phone, tablet or computer screen, almost double the suggested limit of two hours, researchers found.

Furthermore, the data used in the study was collected only once, not over time.

"We found that more than two hours of recreational screen time in children was associated with poorer cognitive development", said one of the researchers Jeremy Walsh, CHEO Research Institute, Canada.

FMI: An abstract of the study and editorial can be found on the website for the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, but the full papers are being a paywall.

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Unfortunately, only one in 20 children were found to be meeting the recommendations.

In the study, 50 percent of the children met the recommended hours for sleeping per night, 37 percent met the recommended screen time, and 18 percent met the recommendation for physical activity.

According to the study, as reported by the BBC, limiting screen time along with nine to 11 hours of sleep in children leads to better performance. Google has also introduced new features to limit screen time and monitor use on Android devices. He added that good sleep and physical activity are associated with improved academic performance, better reaction time, attention, memory, and inhibition.

At the start of the study, the children's parents answered questions about their child's health-related activities, including screen time (TV, smartphones, tablets and video games), sleep patterns and physical activity. 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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The researchers examined how meeting recommendations for 9-11 hours of sleep, less than two hours of recreational screen time, and at least an hour of physical activity every day affected children's cognition.

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. It might not come as a surprise that researchers found almost two out of every three US kids spend more than two hours a day looking at devices.

Almost 30 percent of children failed to meet any of the recommendations, more than 40 percent met only one, a quarter met two, and only five percent conformed to all three.

The more individual recommendations the child met, the better was their cognition, the findings showed.

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"Irrespective of our findings", the authors stress, "physical activity remains the most important behaviour for physical health outcomes, and there is no indication in the literature that it negatively affects cognition". The report said an average tween spends four and a half hours looking at screens for entertainment each day.

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