Study raises new concerns that screens sap kids’ brains

Too much screentime daily may damage kid's brain function

Adding, "We found that more than two hours of recreational screen time in children was associated with poorer cognitive development".

However, only one in 20 United States children aged between 8-11 years meet the three recommendations advised by the Canadian 24-hour Movement Guidelines to ensure good cognitive development - 9-11 hours of sleep, less than two hours of recreational screen time, and at least an hour of physical activity every day.

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

Nineteen out of 20 children in the USA failed to meet the lifestyle benchmarks.

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"These findings highlight the importance of limiting recreational screen time and encouraging healthy sleep to improve cognition in children", the study's authors wrote. Google has also introduced new features to limit screen time and monitor use on Android devices.

The 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth recommend at least an hour of physical activity on a daily basis, two hours or less of recreational screen time per day, and nine to 11 hours of sleep each night in children aged eight to 11 years. 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. The study controlled for factors such as family education level and household income. 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. They were asked how much they sleep, how much they exercise and how much time they spend in front of screens.

"Without consideration of what kids are actually doing with their screens, we're seeing that the two-hour mark actually seems to be a good recommendation for benefiting cognition", said Jeremy Walsh, an exercise physiologist at the University of British Columbia in Okanagan and one of the study authors, to Science News. They note that physical activity remains the most important behaviour for physical health outcomes, and there is no indication that it negatively affects cognition. 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. It should also be noted that Canada is the first country that proposed limits for time spent in front of a backlit screen.

In his commentary, Dr. Bustamante likens the problem of screen time to the challenge of the childhood obesity epidemic, and said that both have been propagated by their profitability to industry, convenience to parents, and pleasure for children.

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