Limiting kids' screen time improves brain function

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Limiting children to less than two hours a day of screen time is associated with better brain function, including memory, attention and the speed with which new information is processed, according to a new study. The study was conducted between 1st September 2015 and 15th September 2017. The real battle comes with figuring out how to actually implement these recommended behaviors in your child's day-to-day life.

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

A new study revealed only one in 20 children in the United States followed the guidelines on exercise, sleep, and screen time, while approximately almost a third are outside recommendations for all three.

At the end of the study the researchers found that children, who spent less than two hours of their free time on screens, slept for nine to 11 hours per night and had at least one hour of physical activity per night, performed better as compared to those who didn't fall into any of those specifics. The study considered ethnicity, Body mass index (BMI), household income and, if any, traumatic brain injury. The relationship between recreational screen time and cognitive development has historically been less clear, and this type of research is in early stages, he said.

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"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.

Researchers found that of those 4,500 children, only 5% met all the suggested guidelines. The three areas of most importance to the researchers were screen time, sleep, and physical activity.

While there is a lot of evidence linking physical activity and cognitive development, in this study, meeting the physical activity recommendation alone showed no association with cognition. They note that physical activity remains the most important behaviour for physical health outcomes, and there is no indication that it negatively affects cognition. The test found that exceeding the recommended amount of screen time had the largest impact on cognitive ability. "This study is showing that less than two hours of recreational screen time is beneficial for children".

"Each minute spent on screens necessarily displaces a minute from sleep or cognitively challenging activities", writes Eduardo Esteban Bustamante, a behavioral scientist at the University of IL, in a commentary that accompanies the study."In the case of evening screen use, this displacement may also be compounded by impairment of sleep quality".

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