ibusinesslines.com December 16, 2018

Limiting kids' screen time improves brain function

02 October 2018, 12:27 | Melissa Porter

Limiting kids' screen time improves brain function

A study suggests cutting children's screen time to less than two hours a day can have an impact on cognition

Researchers in Canada chose to look further into the impact of screen time on cognition in over 4,500 children aged between eight and 11 years.

The study was published last week in the journal "The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health".

The results showed that about 30% of the kids failed to meet any of the recommendations.

In general, health experts say parents should put a tight limit on screen time, and encourage activities that are more productive (either physically, mentally, or both).

According to the study, as reported by the BBC, limiting screen time along with nine to 11 hours of sleep in children leads to better performance. Children and parents completed questionnaires and measures at the outset of the trial to estimate the child's physical activity, sleep and screen time.

When paired with ample sleep and physical activity, kids aged 8 to 10 were able to perform better in tests that measured language abilities, episodic and working memory, executive function, attention span, 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", Walsh said. The study controlled for household income, parental and child education, ethnicity, pubertal development, body mass index and whether the child had had a traumatic brain injury.

The researchers found that only 5 percent of children met all three recommendations. They were asked how much they sleep, how much they exercise and how much time they spend in front of screens.

The study, that examined 45,000 children, found a link between better cognition and limiting screen time in children but has not been able to identify the cause.

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. "It is tempting to take solace in findings that cognitively challenging screen activities can benefit cognition, but, if given a choice, most children already consistently and predictably choose more stimulating screen activities over less stimulating ones".

Taking into consideration the fact that this study is only observational which means that it can't prove a direct link between poorer thinking and more screen time, the situation is tricky. Research is ongoing, however, with particular focus into what exactly kids are watching with their screen time, be it for entertainment or educational purposes. "In the case of evening screen use, this displacement may also be compounded by impairment of sleep quality".

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