Published: Tue, October 02, 2018
Medicine | By Earnest Bishop

Limiting kids' screen time improves brain function

Limiting kids' screen time improves brain function

The study was conducted between 1st September 2015 and 15th September 2017.

A Canadian research team looked at data from 4,500 United States 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. Their findings were published by The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.

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

Overall, children who spent less time on screens, exercised and got enough sleep had better cognition. Google has also introduced new features to limit screen time and monitor use on Android devices.

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. He added that good sleep and physical activity are associated with improved academic performance, better reaction time, attention, memory, and inhibition.

"Behaviors 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", Dr. Jeremy Walsh, lead author of the study, said in a press release.

The study took place in the U.S, where children from 20 schools received cognition tests that aimed to measure their abilities. "Based on our findings, paediatricians, parents, educators, and policymakers should promote limiting recreational screen time and prioritising healthy sleep routines throughout childhood and adolescence".

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

In addition, each child was given a cognitive test that assessed such brain functions as attention, working memory, episodic memory, language skills and processing speed.

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.

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.

"We found that more than two hours of recreational screen time in children was associated with poorer cognitive development". And these children, the researchers found, were more likely to score better on their cognitive tests.

Digital screen technology can deliver educational and enriching content, but spending too much time with that technology may also be harmful for children, this broader body of research is finding. The report said an average tween spends four and a half hours looking at screens for entertainment each day.

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