Study reveals best way to improve your child's brain power

Too much screentime daily may damage kid's brain function

If you want your kids to do well in life, limit their screen time to less than two hours, encourage them to do physical activities and to have sufficient sleep, suggests new research. The study was conducted between 1st September 2015 and 15th September 2017.

For the objective 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.

FMI: An abstract of the study and editorial can be found on the website for the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, but the full papers are being a paywall. Children who spent under two hours on screens scored, on average, about 4 percent higher on thinking-related tests than the kids who didn't meet any of the screen, exercise, or sleep guidelines. "In the case of evening screen use, this displacement may also be compounded by impairment of sleep quality", Dr Eduardo Esteban Bustamante, from the University of Illinois, USA, told the Daily Mail.

The study associates kids who met the guidelines - which include 9 to 11 hours of sleep, at least one hour of physical activity, and less than two hours on screens - with improvements in cognition. The study considered ethnicity, Body mass index (BMI), household income and, if any, traumatic brain injury.

He continued and said that "Based on our findings, pediatricians, parents, educators, and policymakers should promote limiting recreation screen time and prioritizing healthy sleep routines during childhood and adolescence". Both the parents and the children completed questionnaires at the beginning of the study to gauge typical behaviors in these three areas.

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The researchers found that only 5 percent of children met all three recommendations. The three areas of most importance to the researchers were screen time, sleep, and physical activity.

Although there is substantial evidence for the association between physical activity and cognitive development, in this study meeting the physical activity recommendation alone showed no association with cognition. "This study is showing that less than two hours of recreational screen time is beneficial for children".

"Irrespective of our findings", the authors stress, "physical activity remains the most important behaviour for physical health outcomes, and there is no indication in the literature that it negatively affects cognition". And these children, the researchers found, were more likely to score better on their cognitive tests.

But some studies have suggested that the potential for damage is more about the type of content on these screens and whether parents are involved than about the amount of time using them. The report said an average tween spends four and a half hours looking at screens for entertainment each day.

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