The studies seem to be endless and contradictory when it comes to answering the question “how much screen time should kids have?” The latest research suggests that limiting screen time to no more than two hours per day can make a significant difference in kids’ cognition.

The study analyzed data from over 4,500 kids ages eight to 11 collected by the National Institutes of Health, comparing the amount of time kids spent sleeping, completing physical activity and using screens. They found that kids who met the suggested guidelines for sleep, activity and screen time showed superior global cognition versus those kids who did not meet any of those same guidelines.

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For reference, researchers used sleep, activity and screen time recommendations from both the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics; specifically, that kids should get nine to 11 hours of sleep per night, spend less than two hours on screens and get at least one hour of physical activity per day.

Only one in 20 kids in the United States met all three criteria and a whopping one in three didn’t meet a single one. Only 37 percent met the screen time guidelines of less than two hours per day. The study showed that those kids who spent more than two hours per day using screens were linked to poorer cognition.

“Evidence suggests that good sleep and physical activity are associated with improved academic performance, while physical activity is also linked to better reaction time, attention, memory and inhibition,” said Jeremy Walsh, the study’s lead author who works with the CHEO Research Institute in Ottawa, Canada, in a statement.

More research is still needed to see if the types of content viewed during screen time makes a difference. In other words, educational shows might have a different impact on cognition than those shows purely for entertainment.

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—Shahrzad Warkentin

 

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