RCPCH responds to Lancet findings on recreational screen time

According to an observational study of more than 4,500 children in the United States, which is published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal today, limiting recreational screen time to less than two hours a day and having sufficient sleep and physical activity are associated with improved cognition.

Taken individually, limited screen time and improved sleep were associated with the strongest links to improved cognition, while physical activity may be more important for physical health.

However, only one in 20 US children aged between 8 and 11 years meet the three recommendations advised by the Canadian 24-hour Movement Guidelines to ensure good cognitive development: nine to 11 hours of sleep, less than two hours of recreational screen time and at least an hour of physical activity every day.

The study found that US children spend an average of 3.6 hours a day engaged in recreational screen time.

Dr Max Davie, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health Officer for Health Promotion said:

There is inconsistent evidence for the impact of screen time on health and the effectiveness of placing time limits on young people’s use of screens. Too much screen time may be associated with a range of health issues; however, there seems little evidence that this is causal, or that removing screen time without replacing it with cognitively enhancing activities is an effective intervention.

What we do know is that parents need more support to have conversations with their children about screen time and its impacts. That’s why the RCPCH will be producing guidance on this issue for professionals, parents and young people in early 2019.

Update, February 2024 - The guidance that was produced in 2019 is no longer available