In the study, data was analysed from 4,520 children from 20 sites across the US.
Researchers then compared time spent on screens, sleeping, and engaged in physical activity from that study against the Canadian 24-hour Movement Guidelines, created by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology to advise how kids should spend their time in a given day.
However, only one in 20 U.S. children aged between 8-11 years meet the three recommendations advised by the Canadian 24-hour Movement Guidelines to ensure good cognitive development - 9-11 hours of sleep, less than two hours of recreational screen time, and at least an hour of physical activity every day.
"We know that the behaviors of physical activity, sleep and screen time can independently impact the cognitive health of a child". The children who scored best on tests for assessing language abilities, memory, executive function, attention, and processing speed met those sleep, screen time and activity benchmarks.
On average, the participants slept 9.1 hours per night, had 3.6 hours of recreational screen time per day and hit the physical activity goal 3.7 days per week.
Researchers at the University of Ottawa, Carleton University, and the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute studied how many children are following recommended, screen time, exercise, and sleep guidelines.
For the objective of the study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, the researchers surveyed more than 4,500 American children aged between 8 and 11 years. The study controlled for household income, parental and child education, ethnicity, pubertal development, body mass index and whether the child had had a traumatic brain injury.
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The researchers found that kids in the USA average 3.6 hours a day using digital devices, in their study of 4,500 children ages 8 to 11. This was surprising, according to the authors, and it may suggest that the physical activity measure may not have been specific enough.
But just one child out of 20 actually met the guidelines.
While there is a lot of evidence linking physical activity and cognitive development, in this study, meeting the physical activity recommendation alone showed no association with cognition.
But some studies have suggested that the potential for damage is more about the type of content on these screens and whether parents are involved than about the amount of time using them.
"We need to be doing more to encourage behaviors that promote healthy activity throughout the whole day".
The authors note some limitations, including that their study is observational so can not establish the underlying causes or the direction of the association. "This study is showing that less than two hours of recreational screen time is beneficial for children".