How Much Screen Time Is Too Much?

How Much Screen Time Is Too Much?

A new study suggests heavy use of electronic devices, including smartphones and TVs, can harm kids’ growing brains.

It’s a familiar scene: You’re at the dinner table and you can barely get your child to look up from his tablet. A new analysis of activity levels suggests two out of three kids in the U.S. spend more than two hours per day looking at screens. As parents, we wonder: Can this possibly be good for our children? According to the study published online in Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, there’s growing evidence that it’s not.

In the study of over 4,500 8-11-year-olds, the children who spent two hours or more using screens performed worse on memory, language, and thinking tests than the kids who spent less time in front of a device.

The results of this study raise a red flag, says study co-author Jeremy Walsh, an exercise physiologist. Children in the study spent 3.6 hours a day using screens for video games, videos, and other fun. What’s more? Only one in 20 children in the study met recommended guidelines for screen time use (less than two hours), amount of sleep (9-11 hours), and amount of physical exercise (at least one hour). One in three children met none of them.

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Why is it so important to limit screen time and encourage sleep and physical activity?

“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,” says Walsh. 

Researchers say there is still much work to be done on the overall effects of excessive technology use and how it exactly affects the brain and cognitive development. Study authors will continue to collect similar data from families until 2028.