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

Henrietta Brewer
September 29, 2018

Unfortunately, very few USA children meet all three of these daily goals, said lead researcher Jeremy Walsh, a postdoctoral fellow with the CHEO Research Institute in Ottawa, Canada.

The study followed more than 4,500 U.S. children aged between eight and 11, noting how much of their day involved recreational screen time, physical activity and sleep.

Interestingly, they found that even if children only managed to keep their screen time down to two hours and didn't meet the other requirements there was still a positive impact on cognitive development.

It found that 51 percent of the children got the recommended nine to 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night, 37 percent met the recreational screen time limit of two hours or less per day, while 18 percent met the physical activity recommendation of at least 60 minutes of accumulated physical activity a day.


How much screen time do you allow your children to have?

"Based on our findings, paediatricians, parents, educators, and policymakers should promote limiting recreational screen time and prioritising healthy sleep routines throughout childhood and adolescence", he said.

Less than two hours of recreational screen time for children is linked to better cognition, according to an observational study in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal.

The researchers found that as each recommendation was met by a participant, there was a positive association with global cognition, which includes memory, attention, processing speed and language.


The more recommendations a child met, the greater their cognitive ability.

However, it has not yet been proven whether or not poor cognitive development is down to online activity itself or the time spent using electronic devices instead of exercising or sleeping. The authors note this was a surprising finding and may suggest that the measure used may not have been specific enough. She was not involved in the study.

Parents are all too familiar with the battle to get their children to stop playing video games or watching television to play outside instead.

"Each minute spent on screens necessarily displaces a minute from sleep". "More research into the links between screen time and cognition is now needed, including studying the effect of different types of screen time, whether content is educational or entertainment, and whether it requires focus or involves multitasking". Google has also introduced new features to limit screen time and monitor use on Android devices.


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