Children, Smartphones and Cognitive Health

by Wellness Editor – MH

It seems that these days, smartphones are everywhere – in fact, you’ll have a fairly hard time coming across someone who doesn’t own one of these products. Even young children spend hours upon hours staring at the screens of their mobile phones. Not surprisingly, evidence suggests that young children could benefit by cutting back on their screen time. 

Answering Questions 

This opinion comes from a team of Canada-based researchers, who monitored the cell phone habits of approximately 4,500 children between the ages of 8 and 11. Additionally, the authors detailed their subjects’ sleeping patterns and physical activity levels, comparing them to a set of exercise recommendations known as the Canadian 24-hour Movement Guidelines. The purpose of these guidelines is to provide children with a model for how to spend their daily time. 

So how did the researchers collect their data on screen time, sleep, and physical activity? They relied on questionnaires for this task, disseminating these handouts to the participating parents and their children. Moreover, cognitive exams were given to the children to measure working memory, processing speed and attention spans, among other aspects of cognitive health. 

A Brain Drain? 

After sifting through all of this information, a pattern between emerged between smartphone use and sleeping patterns. “We found that more than two hours of recreational screen time in children was associated with poorer cognitive development,” stated Dr. Jeremy Walsh, the study’s senior author. ““More research into the links between screen time and cognition is now needed, including studying the effect of different types of screen time, whether content is educational or entertainment, and whether it requires focus or involves multitasking.”
The journal The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health published the study in its November 01, 2018 issue. The authors noted that only one in twenty (roughly five percent) of American children met the Canadian 24-hour Movement Guidelines for sleep, physical activity and smartphone use. One out of every three children in the United States failed to meet the guidelines in all three areas.

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