Children’s Brain Development Affected By Long Screen Time, Finds US Study

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According to a study led by Jeremy Walsh, a researcher at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, one in 20 kids from the US meets the guidelines on sleep, screen time and exercise. Almost a third of the American children are outside all three recommendations, shows the study published on 27 September 2018 in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.

The study found that children of 8-11 years old spend an average of 3.6 hours every day in front of the TV, mobile phone, tablet, or computer screen. The suggested limit is of two hours.

Because of the excess screen time, researchers found that the children slept less and had seen a drop in cognitive skills (language abilities, memory, completing tasks). Walsh explains why their findings are vital for children’s brain development:

“We found that more than two hours of recreational screen time in children was associated with poorer cognitive development. Based on our findings, paediatricians, parents, educators and policymakers should promote limiting recreation screen time and prioritising healthy sleep routines during childhood and adolescence.”

The study was based on data from detailed questionnaires on 4,520 children from 20 different locations in the US. The participants of the survey also got tested for six types of cognitive skills. The results were adjusted after considering factors like household income, puberty development, and others – all of which could affect performance.

Then, researchers measured the results against the Canadian 24-hour Movement Guidelines for kids.

A Minute In Front of the Screen – One Minute Less of Sleep

Almost 30% of the children didn’t meet the recommendations, more than 40% met one, a quarter met two, and only 5% of the children met all three guidelines.

Half of the children got enough sleep, 37% respected the screen-time limits, and 18% of them met the exercise recommendation.

The study concluded that the children’s brain development was better with each guideline respected. However, the lack of exercise didn’t affect the performance of the children in the cognition tests.

The conclusions are that an increased time spent in front of the screen can impact brain function. Eduardo Esteban Bustamante (assistant professor – University of Illinois’ College of Applied Health Sciences) was not part of the study, but suggests that the link between screen time and brain function “potentially reflects the interruption of the stress-recovery cycle needed for growth in children,” adding that:

“Each minute spent on screens necessarily displaces a minute from sleep.”

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere