Limiting Screen Time Improves Children’s Sleep, Behaviour and Academic Performance
A team of international researchers have revealed that limiting screen time offers multiple health benefits to children.
Researchers at Iowa State University found that children sleep better, perform better in academics and also behave better when parents limit their screen time (time spent watching TV or on the computer).
Through this finding researchers emphasize on the need to monitor screen time. They assert that as the effect is not immediate, parents may not recognize its importance.
"When parents are involved it has a powerful protective effect across a wide range of different areas that they probably never would have expected to see," Douglas Gentile, lead author and an associate professor of psychology at Iowa State, said in a news release. "However, parents aren't likely to notice that putting limits on the children's media is having these effects seven months later."
On an average, children spend 40 hours of screen time a week, excluding the time spent on computers in school. A small change to this can make a huge difference. Parents need to find a healthy balance.
While limiting screen time and media content can have a direct effect on sleep, academics and behavior of the children, it has an indirect effect on the children's body mass index.
The researchers noticed that when screen time was limited, children slept more and their risk of obesity was reduced. Also, limiting exposure to violent media made children more pro-social. There was a drastic decrease in aggressive behavior after seven months of screen monitoring.
In this study, the researchers monitored media habits of over 1,300 children who participated in the obesity prevention program. They interviewed both parents and students on screen time limits, exposure to violent media, bedtime and overall behavior. They got details on the student's grades and behavior from teachers. School nurses measured every participant's height and weight.
The researchers collected data at the start of the program and seven months after the program.
"As parents, we don't even see our children get taller and that's a really noticeable effect. With media, what we're often looking for is the absence of a problem, such as a child not gaining weight, making it even more difficult to notice," Gentile said. "Even with changes that we do notice, we really don't recognize in the moment how all these things are related to each other across time," he added. "Yes, as screen time goes up, school performance goes down, but that doesn't happen overnight. If I watch a lot of TV today, I don't get an F in
my class tomorrow."
The American Association of Pediatrics suggests that children aged two years and older should not be exposed to more than one-two hours of screen time a day. The researchers state that pediatricians can also make a difference by talking to parents and influencing them on the need to monitor screen time.
The study was documented in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.