Published: Mon, October 01, 2018
Medical | By

Limiting kids' screen time improves brain function

Limiting kids' screen time improves brain function

The research says that children aged eight to 11 spent 3.6 hours a day glued to a TV, mobile phone, tablet or computer screen, almost double the suggested limit of two hours.

The research suggests that screen time could be linked to worse results in school, along with negative impacts on a child's memory, language, and thinking skills.

Walsh believes that the 30 percent of participants who did not meet any of the guidelines are those that have the most to gain from adjustment of daily behaviors. The relationship between recreational screen time and cognitive development has historically been less clear, and this type of research is in early stages, he said.

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 study involved more than 4,500 United States children aged 8-11 years.


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 American Academy of Pediatrics recommends having a media plan with their children that lays out the rules of when media is appropriate".

It found that 51 percent of the children got the recommended nine to 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night, 37 percent met the recreational screen time limit of two hours or less per day, while 18 percent met the physical activity recommendation of at least 60 minutes of accumulated physical activity a day. The children were also asked to fill in questionnaires and complete puzzles that measured their cognitive functions.

Unsurprisingly, the researchers found that children who met the recommended amounts of sleep, physical activity, and screentime performed better during the tests.

"Based on our findings, pediatricians, parents, educators, and policymakers should promote limiting recreational screen time and prioritizing healthy sleep routines throughout childhood and adolescence", Walsh said. This raises awareness that kids should spend less time in front of the screen.

That includes more than two and a half hours staring at their phone for the average teen. Screen time, even by itself, did. She was not involved in the study. The authors note this was a surprising finding and may suggest that the measure used may not have been specific enough. But of course, knowing is just the first step. There's a lot of evidence that the "blue light" screens put out plays havoc with our body's sleep schedule.

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