As part of the study, 4,500 children in the United States were surveyed on the behaviors and were also assessed on their cognitive ability which included language, memory, processing speed, and attention.
"We found that more than two hours of recreational screen time in children was associated with poorer cognitive development".
In the study, children and parents completed questionnaires and measured at the beginning of the trial to estimate the child's physical activity, sleep and screen time.
"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", Dr. Jeremy Walsh, the study's lead author and a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia, said in the study's press release.
But scientists in Canada found only one in 20 of the 4,520 USA children studied were meeting all of these key recommendations.
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The study concluded that the children's brain development was better with each guideline respected.
Walsh believes that the 30 percent of participants who did not meet any of the guidelines are those that have the most to gain from adjustment of daily behaviors.
Nearly a third of the American children are outside all three recommendations, shows the study published on 27 September 2018 in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.
"Only 5 percent of our sample met all three guidelines", Walsh said.
Parents are all too familiar with the battle to get their children to stop playing video games or watching television to play outside instead. While about half met the sleep recommendation, only 37 percent met the guideline for limited screen time and 18 percent met that for physical activity. She was not involved in the study.
While the observational study captured a snapshot of a child's cognitive abilities, and only showed an association between reduced screen time and higher mental performance, it did not establish a causal link, according to the BBC. The amount of recommended screen time depends on the age of the child.