American Children Get Too Much Screen Time, Study Finds

These findings may come as unsurprising to some, but the numbers are rather stark. In a report published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, researchers found that only 1 in 20 American children meet recommended amounts of sleep, exercise and screen time.


American Children’s Cognitive Functions Suffering

According to Jeremy Walsh, who headed the study, “We found that more than two hours of recreational screen time in children was associated with poorer cognitive development.” Walsh currently works as a researcher at Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute. “Based on our findings, pediatricians, parents, educators and policymakers should promote limiting recreation screen time and prioritizing healthy sleep routines during childhood and adolescence.”

The Study

Walsh and his team gathered the information via questionnaires. Additionally, they tested the children questioned for cognitive skills. Their information was drawn from 20 different locations in the US and were adjusted for socioeconomic factors.

As for the control group, the cognitive skills were compared to those found in Canadian children in the 24-hour Movement Guidelines. The study used the World Health Organizations recommendations for sleep and exercise to draw those conclusions.


The study found some disturbing trends among American children. Only half of the children interviewed were getting enough sleep, while thirty-seven percent were within recommended screen time. Tragically, only eighteen percent of the children are getting enough exercise. As America’s obesity problem worsens, this is very tragic news.

Further, twenty-eight percent of the children met none of the requirements. Only five percent of the children met all three guidelines, which sends a troubling message about technology use. As it stands, experts fear that consistent cell phone use is causing damage to the developing minds of children.

Cognitive Abilities

Children have very impressionable minds, and the things they encounter early in life have a large impact on their development. Children who are exposed to more screen time are likely to have lessened cognitive functions, the study found. Issues such as addiction and attention disorders are highly likely, which leads to less overall happiness and engagement.

In America, pediatricians recommend that children get less screen time the younger they are. However, many children are glued to iPads and smartphones, constantly using them in a positive feedback loop. This feedback loop affects brain chemistry and results in real damage beyond simply appearing “rude.”