Reducing screen time boosts children's brains

A poll conducted for Common Sense Media a nonprofit focused on helping children parents teachers and policymakers negotiate media and technology explores families and technology addiction

More than two hours screentime a day could damage children’s brain development

"I think we need to take a good hard look at our habits around using screens and I think that these guidelines of no more than two hours of recreational screen time per day could be a good starting point to other countries, to start looking at how cognition is affected in their populations and start to make some rules around the limits on children's screen time use" said Dr Walsh.

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.

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

The children were later asked to complete a cognition test where they were assessed on their memory, attention, language abilities and processing speed.

"Behaviours 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".

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The study is based on data gathered from over 4,500 USA kids aged 8 to 11 between September 2016 and September 2017 as part of a new, federally funded 10-year study on brain development and child health.

To improve children's cognitive skills such as problem solving, memory and attention, their screen time should be limited to less than two hours a day.

Kids with the sharpest intellects spent less than two hours a day on their cellphones, tablets and computers, coupled with 9 to 11 hours of sleep and at least an hour of physical activity, the study found.

A new study published by Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, examined 4,500 United States children aged between eight and 11 to determine how screen time affects their cognitive development. She was not involved in the study. In the case of evening screen use, this displacement may also be compounded by impairment of sleep quality.

While the observational study captured a snapshot of a child's cognitive abilities, and only showed an association between reduced screen time and higher mental performance, it did not establish a causal link, according to the BBC. Dr Walsh said more research was needed to examine the potential impact of different online activities.

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