U.S. Children Get Too Much Screen Time and Not Enough Sleep, Study Finds

Only 5% of U.S. children meet guidelines on sleep, exercise, and screen time, a new study found, while nearly 30% fail to reach even one category’s recommendation.

Scientists gathered questionnaire data on more than 4,500 kids ages eight to 11 in 20 locations around the U.S. The information was compared to the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth, which recommends a minimum of 60 minutes of exercise, a maximum of two hours of screen time, and nine to 11 hours of sleep for this age group.

The study, published Wednesday in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, found that 51% of U.S. kids met the sleep guidelines; 37% stayed within screen time parameters; and 18% reached the exercise recommendation. The more recommendations the child met, the better their cognitive development, according to the study.

Looking at the association between these lifestyle habits and cognitive skills, the study found not enough sleep and too much screen time in particular led to poorer abilities in language, memory, and task completion, The Guardian reports.

“Based on our findings, pediatricians, parents, educators, and policymakers should promote limiting recreation screen time and prioritizing healthy sleep routines during childhood and adolescence,” Jeremy Walsh, the study’s lead author, told The Guardian.

The study reports that on average, U.S. children spend nearly 3.6 hours per day looking at a screen for recreation. While those with excess screen time scored lower on cognitive tests, this does not necessarily mean TVs and smartphones are the direct cause: it could be that more cognitively-capable children are less likely to spend time on screens, Science News reports.

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