Published: Sat, September 29, 2018
Medicine | By Earnest Bishop

Limited screen time good for children’s brains

Limited screen time good for children’s brains

Researchers said that parents should try to limit their offspring's recreational screen time, including periods playing video games, using social media and watching television.

The more recommendations a child met, the greater their cognitive ability.

According to Dr. Shawna Newman, an attending psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, the study "clearly demonstrates the specific benefit of exercise for children, in addition to that of good sleep hygiene and the limitation of screen time contributing positively to cognitive development".

"We really had an opportunity here to look at how meeting each of these guidelines and meeting all of the guidelines relate to cognition in a large sample of American children".

The research, involving more than 4,500 children in the United States, found only one in 20 met daily guidelines of nine to 11 hours of sleep, one hour of physical activity and limited screen-time.

The recommendations are: 9-11 hours of sleep per night, less than two hours of recreational screen time, and at least an hour of physical activity every day.

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The study, which involved 4,520 children (aged 8 to 11 years) showed that the children spent an average of 3.6 hours a day on their screens.

Nearly a third of the American children are outside all three recommendations, shows the study published on 27 September 2018 in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.

They said the extra rest from screens aided brain function and additional outdoors activity also improved the children's physical health.

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

Overall, findings indicated that USA children enjoy an average of 3.6 hours of screen time a day while just over half meet the recommended amount of sleep. "Based on our findings, paediatricians, parents, educators, and policymakers should promote limiting recreational screen time and prioritising healthy sleep routines throughout childhood and adolescence", said Walsh. While those with excess screen time scored lower on cognitive tests, this does not necessarily mean TVs and smartphones are the direct cause: it could be that more cognitively-capable children are less likely to spend time on screens, Science News reports. The study's authors said that more research is needed to probe the links between screen time and cognition, including research differentiates between different types of screen time activities and what effects they have on children.

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