A new study says that parents should limit the recreational screentime of children to two hours a day to improve their cognition.
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 was conducted by researchers from the CHEO Research Institute's Healthy Active Living and Obesity using data from the U.S. National Institute of Health. Their findings were published by The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.
The study involved 4,524 children from about 20 study sites across the United States. Parents were also surveyed to find out the habits of their children, including the amount of sleep they get every night, how often they are physically active, and how much of their time was spent glued to the television, a smartphone, or a computer.
The children were then tested across six kinds of cognitive skills, adjusting the results based on household income or other factors that might affect their performances.
Unsurprisingly, the researchers found that children who met the recommended amounts of sleep, physical activity, and screentime performed better during the tests.
"The shift in the lifestyle behaviors of children towards low physical activity, a reduction in sleep and ubiquitous screen time use may pose a threat to cognitive development," stated Mark Tremblay of CHEO Research Institute,
"We need to be doing more to encourage behaviors that promote healthy activity throughout the whole day. There is a positive relationship among childhood global cognition, future academic success and lower all-cause mortality."
The 24-Hour Movement, developed by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, said that children are encouraged to have at least 60 minutes of moderate to rigorous physical activity every day. They should also get nine to 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night in order to perform their best at school.
For screen time, parents should consider limiting smartphone, TV, or computer use to no more than two hours per day. A separate report released by Common Sense Media last year revealed that children from age 0 to 8 spend an average of two hours and 19 minutes in front of a screen every day.
The American Academy of Pediatrics also links extended screentime to obesity, sleep problems, and a decline in academic performance. Unsupervised use of the internet could also expose children to cyberbullying, risky behaviors, and online predators.