An Iowa State University study published this week shows kids who spend less time in front of a computer or TV get more sleep, do better in school, and are healthier. ISU Associate Professor Douglas Gentile says the study involved the “screen time” habits of 3rd through 5th grade students in Iowa and Minnesota. “Some parents put stricter limits on it than others and we find that when parents do set those limits, it shows up in kids’ behavior seven months later,” Gentile says. “They ended up being less aggressive with their peers and more pro-social.”

In addition to minutes spent in front of a screen, researchers also collected data on what students were viewing. Gentile says violent media, such as various video games, encourages aggressive behavior. Gentile says parents have more power over screen time than they realize. “Parents often feel out of control when they are thinking about their kids’ media habits because the kids are often more facile with the new technologies. But this shows that parents really are in a much more powerful position than they realize,” Gentile says.

The study started out as an obesity prevention program, but Gentile says researchers found a link between screen time and behavioral issues. He says most kids spend more than two hours a day in front of a screen — which is the limit recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Gentile made his comments on the Iowa Public Radio program River to River.