Limiting kids' screen time improves brain function

Alicia Farmer
October 1, 2018

The study took place in the U.S, where children from 20 schools received cognition tests that aimed to measure their abilities. 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.

Children look at screens for too long every day, and don't exercise and sleep enough, and it's affecting their cognitive ability, researchers have said in a new report.

"We've seen that children who meet more of these guidelines have better outcomes in their physical fitness, different cardio-metabolic outcomes like cardiovascular health, blood pressure, and metabolic regulation", Jeremy Walsh, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia and author on the study, told Newsweek.

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 study considered ethnicity, Body mass index (BMI), household income and, if any, traumatic brain injury. Some researchers argue children need more screen time, social media platforms, however, feel exiling young users is beneficial for them and even tech icons like Bill Gates have come forward to admit he doesn't let his kids use phones.

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A Canadian research team looked at data from 4,500 U.S. 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.

Parents, please take note. He added that good sleep and physical activity are associated with improved academic performance, better reaction time, attention, memory, and inhibition. Also, because the questionnaires were used only at the onset of the study, they don't show the effects of these behaviors - or cognitive development - over time. "The link between sedentary behaviours, like recreational screen time, is unclear as this research is in the early stages and it appears to vary depending on the types of screen-based activity". And children who didn't meet these guidelines also performed worse on average. Nevertheless, the findings suggest that "pediatricians, parents, educators, and policymakers should promote limiting recreational screen time and prioritizing healthy sleep routines throughout childhood and adolescence", Dr. Walsh said.

"Each minute spent on screens necessarily displaces a minute from sleep or cognitively challenging activities", Dr. Bustamante wrote in a commentary that accompanied the study.

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