Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

Limiting kids' screen time improves brain function

Child with phone Child with phone. Source
Ben Pena | 02 October, 2018, 00:27

The study was conducted by researchers from the CHEO Research Institute's Healthy Active Living and Obesity using data from the U.S. National Institute of Health.

4,524 children from the ages of 8 to 11 took part from September 2016 to 2017 in the ABCD study, and the current study looked at their results.

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. The real battle comes with figuring out how to actually implement these recommended behaviors in your child's day-to-day life.

Researchers then compared time spent on screens, sleeping, and engaged in physical activity from that study against the Canadian 24-hour Movement Guidelines, created by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology to advise how kids should spend their time in a given day. This was surprising, according to the authors, and it may suggest that the physical activity measure may not have been specific enough. He added that good sleep and physical activity are associated with improved academic performance, better reaction time, attention, memory, and inhibition.

In their findings, researchers accounted for a variety of other factors known to contribute to cognition, including household income and education levels. 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.

As part of the project, funded by the National Institutes of Health, researchers across the United States interviewed children and their parents about their lifestyle habits.

Limiting screen time along with sleep for nine to 11 hours lead to better performances in children.

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Roughly 30 percent of children failed to meet any of these recommendations.

Children also completed a cognition test, which assessed language abilities, episodic memory, executive function, attention, working memory and processing speed.

The findings showed that almost 30 percent of the children involved in the study didn't meet any of the recommended guidelines, just over 40 percent met one, 25 percent met two, and five percent met all three. Also, because the questionnaires were used only at the onset of the study, they don't show the effects of these behaviors - or cognitive development - over time.

For screen time, parents should consider limiting smartphone, TV, or computer use to no more than two hours per day.

"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".

"Each minute spent on screens necessarily displaces a minute from sleep".

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