More than two hours screentime a day could damage children’s brain development

Ben Davidson
September 29, 2018

Overall, the researchers found that children who had less than two hours of recreational screen time each day, got nine to 11 hours of sleep and did at least one hour of physical activity, performed better in the cognitive tasks than who did none of these.

"We found that more than two hours of recreational screen time in children was associated with poorer cognitive development", said one of the researchers Jeremy Walsh, CHEO Research Institute, Canada. The children who scored best on tests for assessing language abilities, memory, executive function, attention, and processing speed met those sleep, screen time and activity benchmarks.

"I think that the overarching goal here is that parents should consider the whole 24-hour day of their children", he said, "and put realistic rules or limits in place for how long they are on their screens for, having bed time rules, and making sure to encourage physical activity".

As reported in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, nearly one-third (29% [1,330]) of the children did not meet any of the guidelines, 41% (1,845) met one recommendation; 25% (1,129) met two and just 5% (216) met all three. Now, new research has proven that more than two hours of recreational screen time a day could seriously affect a child's learning.

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The study followed more than 4,500 U.S. children aged between eight and 11, noting how much of their day involved recreational screen time, physical activity and sleep.

Participants' parents were questioned on their kids' daily habits from the amount of physical activity they participate in to the number of hours spent sleeping.

But scientists in Canada found only one in 20 of the 4,520 U.S. children studied were meeting all of these key recommendations.

According to Dr. Shawna Newman, an attending psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, the study "clearly demonstrates the specific benefit of exercise for children, in addition to that of good sleep hygiene and the limitation of screen time contributing positively to cognitive development". "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". That's what the researchers found when they compared guideline adherence against performance on brain exercises ("cognition").

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