Too Much Screen Time Is Hurting Kids’ Brains, Study Says

And it's affecting daily exercise and sleep routines too.
ByStephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor
Published
Oct 2018
two little boy watching phone screen
Photo: Getty Images

If you want your kid to be able to think quickly, you should consider limiting the amount of time spent on screens and devices, a new study says. It’s because kids’ screen time also takes away from other crucial areas for mental development, including sleep and exercise.

Researchers across the US interviewed parents about their kids’ lifestyle habits, and asked kids to asnwer questionnaires and complete puzzles to measure their cognitive levels.

Using the 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth, the observational study suggests there are three key areas molding cognitive abilities in kids: Screen time, exercise and sleep. Based on the guidelines, kids ages 8 to 11 years old should experience two hours or less of screen time, participate in 60 minutes of physical activity and receive between 9 to 11 hours of sleep daily.

Much to researchers’ dismay, only 1 in 20 kids in the U.S. met all three guidelines.

Compared to kids who didn’t meet any of the three guidelines, children with less screen time performed better on tests. And children who got enough sleep and less screen time also had stronger test results, suggesting a link between poor sleep and screen time.

“We need to pay attention to how long we are on the screens for,” lead author Jeremy Walsh tells the Washington Post. “This study is showing that less than two hours of recreational screen time is beneficial for children.”

Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its screen time guidelines to become more adaptable for a digital world. It recommends no more than an hour of screen time for babies and kids between the ages of 18 months and 6 years old. As for kids ages 6 and older, parents should enforce “consistent limits” to support other healthy behaviors, such as sleep and physical activity.

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