Too much screen time, too little horseplay for kids

Too much screentime daily may damage kid's brain function

The theory that prolonged screen time may affect cognition has been backed-up by several studies, and it has been explain that each minute of screen time reduces the time available for physical activity, which would benefit the child more.

The study was conducted by researchers from the CHEO Research Institute's Healthy Active Living and Obesity using data from the U.S. National Institute of Health.

For the goal of the study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, the researchers surveyed more than 4,500 American children aged between 8 and 11 years. Their findings were published by The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.

Walsh and his team looked at data - based on detailed questionnaires - for 4,520 children spread across 20 locations in the United States.

The children and their parents completed questionnaires and different measures to estimate physical activity, sleep and screen time.

And when that limited screen time is coupled with a good night's sleep - at least nine hours a night - children tend to score even better on cognitive tests, the study also found. Google has also introduced new features to limit screen time and monitor use on Android devices.

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Researchers kept in mind other factors that may have influenced the results such as the net household income, race and ethnicity, the body max index and other useful indicators, but they can not claim that the study is completely accurate.

The strong link between time spent staring at a screen and brain function "potentially reflect the interruption of the stress-recovery cycle needed for growth in children", commented Eduardo Esteban Bustamante, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois' College of Applied Health Sciences who did not take part in the study. Researchers took this to mean that having two hours or fewer of screen time per day was the largest factor in performing well on the cognitive test. They were asked how much they sleep, how much they exercise and how much time they spend in front of screens.

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 research suggests that screen time could be linked to worse results in school, along with negative impacts on a child's memory, language, and thinking skills.

The more individual recommendations the child met, the better was their cognition, the findings showed. Research is ongoing, however, with particular focus into what exactly kids are watching with their screen time, be it for entertainment or educational purposes. Each minute spent on screens necessarily displaces a minute from sleep or cognitively challenging activities.

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