Too much screen time, too little horseplay for kids: US study

A poll conducted for Common Sense Media a nonprofit focused on helping children parents teachers and policymakers negotiate media and technology explores families and technology addiction

Almost 30 per cent of children failed to meet any of the recommendations, more than 40 per cent met only one, a quarter met two, and only five per cent conformed to all three.

The results were compiled from data gleaned from 4,520 questionnaires from 20 sites across the United States of America, in which children and parents estimated the child's physical activity, sleep and screen time.

Half the kids were getting enough sleep, 37 per cent remained within the screen-time limits, and only 18 per cent met the physical activity recommendation.

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

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.

Kids who met the sleep and screen time guidelines appeared to have the best intellects, followed by the kids who met just the screen time guidelines, the findings showed.

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Taken individually, limited screen time and improved sleep were associated with the strongest links to improved cognition.

The children were later asked to complete a cognition test where they were assessed on their memory, attention, language abilities and processing speed. The amount of recommended screen time depends on the age of the child. "Based on our findings, paediatricians, parents, educators, and policymakers should promote limiting recreational screen time and prioritising healthy sleep routines throughout childhood and adolescence", said Walsh. However, the lack of exercise didn't affect the performance of the children in the cognition tests.

"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 study's authors said that more research is needed to probe the links between screen time and cognition, including research differentiates between different types of screen time activities and what effects they have on children.

The authors note some limitations, including that their study is observational so can not establish the underlying causes or the direction of the association.

"Each minute spent on screens necessarily displaces a minute from sleep". Google has also introduced new features to limit screen time and monitor use on Android devices.

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