December 17, 2018

Limiting screen time improves cognition

02 October 2018, 12:29 | Rodolfo Wallace

Child with phone. Source

Child with phone

A groundbreaking study from the National Institutes of Health has found that limiting screen time and increasing physical activity and sleep in children actually improves brain function.

For kids aged 8 to 11 years, the guidelines recommend at least 60 minutes of physical activity, no more than two hours of recreational screen time, and nine to 11 hours of nighttime sleep per day.

The findings were published in Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.

A new study found that the average American child spends 3.6 hours a day watching TV, using a computer, or looking at their phone or tablet. Moreover, only 18 percent met the physical activity recommendation, 37 percent remained within the screen time limits, and half were getting enough sleep.

Those who met all three had the most "superior" global cognition, followed by those meeting the sleep and screen time recommendation and finally the screen time recommendation alone, according to the study. In order to arrive at the result, a set of questionnaires were used to gauge the child's sleep, physical activity, the estimated time they spend before the screen.

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"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", he is quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.

All results held even after adjusting for other factors known to be associated with how well children do on cognitive tests, such as household income, parent education level, body mass index and history of a head injury.

Walsh and the team analyzed data coming from 4,520 children from 20 locations in the USA the experts also tested the kids' cognitive skills, adjusting the results for puberty development, household income, and more factors that might have the ability to affect the kids' performance.

However, meeting just the screen time recommendation, or both the screen time and sleep recommendation, had the strongest links with cognitive development.

"Without consideration of what kids are actually doing with their screens, we're seeing that the two-hour mark actually seems to be a good recommendation for benefiting cognition", said Jeremy Walsh, an exercise physiologist at the University of British Columbia in Okanagan and one of the study authors, to Science News. "This study is showing that less than two hours of recreational screen time is beneficial for children". Some 25% met two and just 5% met all three recommendations. "More research into the links between screen time and cognition is now needed, including studying the effect of different types of screen time, whether content is educational or entertainment, and whether it requires focus or involves multitasking".

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