Our parents used to warn us that sitting in front of the TV for hours would rot our brains.
But now, experts warn that American children really are spending too much time in front of their TV, computer, and phone screens.
And all that screen time may end up hurting their mental development.
American Kids Are Screen Junkies
A new study found that the average American child spends 3.6 hours a day watching TV, using a computer, or looking at their phone or tablet.
The research suggests that screen time could be linked to worse results in school, along with negative impacts on a child's memory, language, and thinking skills.
Surveys from parents of more than 4,500 American children ranging from eight to 11 years old were used in the study, which was published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.
According to Canadian health guidelines used in the study, children need nine to 11 hours of sleep each night, with less than two hours of screen time and an hour of physical activity each day.
In the study, children who met those guidelines were more likely to score well on tests, and showed positive mental development.
But just one child out of 20 actually met the guidelines.
Only 37% of children in the study spent less than two hours a day with screens, and only 18% had their suggested hour of daily exercise.
That's worrying, because out of the three categories screen time seemed to have the biggest impact on a child's cognitive skills.
More screen time can also interfere with a healthy sleep schedule, which was the second more important guideline.
Just 5% of children in the study met all three guidelines, and 30% met none of them.
Hooked On Phones From A Young Age
The fact that kids are glued to their TVs, phones, and laptops is nothing new.
In general, health experts say parents should put a tight limit on screen time, and encourage activities that are more productive (either physically, mentally, or both).
The American Academy of Pediatrics actually recommends no screen time before a child is 18 months old.
Then, they suggest just one hour of "high quality" programs (like Sesame Street) for children aged two to five years old.
The Lancet study's authors say more research is needed, and the link between screen time and mental development is not fully established.
But they recommend parents, educators, and doctors to promote limits on electronic time and tight sleep schedules.
The increase in cell phone use from a young age is also worrying for many parents and health experts.
A recent report found that the average American teen spends more than six and a half hours each day using screens for entertainment (so not including time spent on homework).
That includes more than two and a half hours staring at their phone for the average teen.
Even "tweens" (aged 8-12) are spending more time with screens. The report said an average tween spends four and a half hours looking at screens for entertainment each day.
The sheer amount of time is a concern, because another study found just one to two hours a day is the right amount of phone time for happy teenagers.
Research suggests teens who spend more time using social media and the internet, while avoiding socializing, ports, or schoolwork, had "lower psychological well-being."
For concerned parents, restricting the use of electronic screens in the bedroom can be a good first step. There's a lot of evidence that the "blue light" screens put out plays havoc with our body's sleep schedule.