The study took place in the U.S, where children from 20 schools received cognition tests that aimed to measure their abilities.
Limiting the amount of time children spend on screens to less than two hours per day is linked with better cognition, the results of a new study indicate. The guidelines recommend that children in that age group get at least an hour of physical activity, no more than two hours of recreational screen time and nine to 11 hours of sleep per night.
Screen time, physical activity, and sleep are three key components in maintaining - and improving - cognitive skills, researchers say.
Researchers from several Canadian institutions explored data on the daily activity of 4,524 USA children aged between eight and 11, and published their findings in article entitled Associations between 24 hour movement behaviours and global cognition in United States children: a cross-sectional observational study. Both the parents and the children completed questionnaires at the beginning of the study to gauge typical behaviors in these three areas.
The researchers measured the children against widely recognised guidelines.
According to the study's authors, additional research is needed to better understand the effects of different kinds of screen time on cognition, and they point out that given the study's observational nature, it does not prove a causative link between screen time on cognition.
"We found that more than two hours of recreational screen time in children was associated with poorer cognitive development".
The authors note some limitations, including that their study is observational so can not establish the underlying causes or the direction of the association. But new research is giving parents around the world a good reason to really focus on creating healthier habits for their family: Having just the right amount of sleep, exercise, and limited screen time (yes, all three!) might be key to developing young people's brain power.
Although there is substantial evidence for the association between physical activity and cognitive development, in this study meeting the physical activity recommendation alone showed no association with cognition. "The link between sedentary behaviours, like recreational screen time, is unclear as this research is in the early stages and it appears to vary depending on the types of screen-based activity".
Unfortunately, only one in 20 children were found to be meeting the recommendations.
A recent report found that the average American teen spends more than six and a half hours each day using screens for entertainment (so not including time spent on homework).