Children Who Get Less Screen Time Think Better, Study Finds

Grant Boone
October 1, 2018

Nineteen out of 20 children in the USA failed to meet the lifestyle benchmarks. The three areas of most importance to the researchers were screen time, sleep, and physical activity. The age of the kids ranged been eight and eleven, and their answered questionnaires about their sleep, physical activity done inside and outside school grounds, and how much time they spend in front of the T.V. The results showed a unsafe trend.

Walsh said although kids who spent more than two hours in front of screens were linked to poorer cognition, he warned more research is needed to study the impacts of different forms of screen time, such as educational versus entertainment experiences. And these children, the researchers found, were more likely to score better on their cognitive tests. A Canadian study reported that one in 20 kids in the US meets the guidelines on sleep, exercise and screen time and nearly a third are outside recommendations for all these. The study controlled for factors such as family education level and household income. Researchers used The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth, which were released in 2016, as a benchmark.

The findings showed that almost 30 percent of the children involved in the study didn't meet any of the recommended guidelines, just over 40 percent met one, 25 percent met two, and five percent met all three.

The more individual recommendations the child met, the better their cognition.

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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.

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The researchers did note that the findings from the study do come with some limitations, in part due to the observational nature of the study. This was surprising, according to the authors, and it may suggest that the physical activity measure may not have been specific enough. "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". It's no easy task getting a small child to put down an enthralling screen of moving colors and sounds once they've picked it up, and in a modern world with devices constantly beckoning their attention, everything from getting the kids outside to getting them to sleep at a reasonable hour can be a real struggle. "The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends having a media plan with their children that lays out the rules of when media is appropriate".

But they recommend parents, educators, and doctors to promote limits on electronic time and tight sleep schedules.

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