A new study has revealed that children who spend more than two hours a day looking at their computer and other devices have worse memory, attention span and language skills compared with their peers who spend less screen time.
In the new study, which was published in the Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, researchers tracked the the daily habits of 4,500 children between 8 and 11 years years old.
They found evidence suggesting that children who spend more recreational screen time on smartphones and playing video games tend to have worse cognitive skills.
Study researcher Jeremy Walsh, of the University of British Columbia in Okanagan in Canada, and colleagues found that more than two hours a day of recreational screen time is linked to worse working memory, attention levels, language skills, processing speed and executive function.
Walsh said that the results of their research raise concerns. The children who participated in their study on average spend 3.6 hours a day using screens for videos, video games and other recreational activities.
The researchers found that only 29 percent of the participants achieved the three recommendations of the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth for the amount of time children have to spend on physical activity, screen time and sleep.
Forty-one percent met one of the recommendations. Only 25 percent met two and a mere five percent met all three.
Children who met all recommendations, spending less than two hours of recreational time, getting between nine to 11 hours hours of sleep and exercising at least an hour everyday, were found to have the best cognition skills.
They also did around five percent better in tests compared with the average children.
The children who spent less than two hours daily on screen also performed four percent better than most of the other kids in the group.
“Meeting the 24 h movement recommendations was associated with superior global cognition. These findings highlight the importance of limiting recreational screen time and encouraging healthy sleep to improve cognition in children,” the researchers wrote in their study
The researchers urged parents to keep track of their children’s screen time, which they said should not exceed two hours per day.
“These are landmark findings. We’ve set a clear two hour benchmark here and it shows clear cognitive benefit is associated with keeping within that limit,” Walsh told The Telegraph.
“Based on our findings, pediatricians, parents, educators, and policymakers should promote limiting recreational screen time and prioritizing healthy sleep routines throughout childhood and adolescence.”