The theory that prolonged screen time may affect cognition has been backed-up by several studies, and it has been explain that each minute of screen time reduces the time available for physical activity, which would benefit the child more. Their findings were published by The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. The amount of recommended screen time depends on the age of the child. While about half met the sleep recommendation, only 37 percent met the guideline for limited screen time and 18 percent met that for physical activity.
A new study reports that only one in 20 kids in the United States meets guidelines on sleep, exercise and screen time, and one-third of kids are outside recommendations for all three. It's no easy task getting a small child to put down an enthralling screen of moving colors and sounds once they've picked it up, and in a modern world with devices constantly beckoning their attention, everything from getting the kids outside to getting them to sleep at a reasonable hour can be a real struggle.
When paired with ample sleep and physical activity, kids aged 8 to 10 were able to perform better in tests that measured language abilities, episodic and working memory, executive function, attention span, and processing speed. The study considered ethnicity, Body mass index (BMI), household income and, if any, traumatic brain injury.
The study's authors said that more research is needed to probe the links between screen time and cognition. The three areas of most importance to the researchers were screen time, sleep, and physical activity.
The researchers found that only 5 percent of children met all three recommendations.
"We need to be doing more to encourage behaviors that promote healthy activity throughout the whole day".
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The more individual recommendations the child met, the better was their cognition, the findings showed.
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.
A similar pattern was seen with children who both got enough sleep and less screen time, further supporting a link between poor sleep and screens.
Writing in a linked Comment, Dr Eduardo Esteban Bustamante, University of Illinois, USA, says: "Through a stress-adaptation lens, the strong associations between global cognition and meeting the recreational screen time recommendation found by Walsh and colleagues potentially reflect the interruption of the stress-recovery cycle necessary for growth in children who do not meet the recommendation".
"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".