A recent study published in September 2018 suggests that if a child spends more than two hours before a computer screen per day, it can have a serious affect on their intellectual capacities in comparison to other children. However screens are not the only factor for a cognitive deficiency. This study also shows that sleep and physical activity also play an important role.
How was the study carried out?
Canadian researchers from CHEO institute and Ottawa and Carleton University have published a study focusing on the screen habits of 4,524 children aged between 8 and 11 years old. Researchers studied whether these children from the United States followed Canadian recommended guidelines relating to children’s use of screens and the possible impact on their cognitive functions. Here are some of the Canadian recommended guidelines. Children should have at least 9 to 11 hours of sleep per night. They should spend no more than 2 hours per day before a screen. They should exercise for at least 1 hour per day. At the start of the study families responded to a questionnaire. Researchers could then understand how many hours of sleep the children had per night, the amount of time they spent before a computer screen and how much exercise they carried out per day.
Next, the children were subjected to a series of cognitive tests which primarily looked at speech, reactivity, concentration and memory.
What can we learn about the changes to children’s intellectual capacities in relation to these three studied criteria?
On average, children spent 3.6 hours in front of a screen per day. However only 5% of children studied respected all the Canadian recommendation guidelines (which is the equivalent to 1 child for every 20). On the other hand, 29% of children studied followed not a single recommended guideline. What is more, the study shows that only 51% of children got the correct amount of sleep while only 37% spent less than 2 hours in front of a screen. In parallel, only 18% of the children studied exercised for at least one hour per day.
Doctor Jeremy Walsh from the CHEO Institute of Canada stated that along with his colleagues, he has discovered that “for children more than two hours in front of a screen weakens their cognitive development.”
The tests that they carried out reveal that time spent in front of a screen and the number of hours children sleep directly affect children’s intellectual capacities. Although exercise doesn’t influence the children’s cognitive capacities, it is nevertheless important to have a good physical health.
This study supports scientists and educators who warn about the harmful effects of too much time in front of a screen. The negatives effects can lead to problems ranging from concentration difficulties to addiction.
In France, the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA) has published various recommendations regarding children and screens. In fact, they suggest that before the age of three children should not have access to a screen. The CSA state that for children under three screens can “slow down their development, even if it is a TV show which is directed to their age group“.