An intervention to reduce television viewing by preschool children

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004 Feb;158(2):170-6. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.158.2.170.


Background: Television viewing has been associated with increased violence in play and higher rates of obesity. Although there are interventions to reduce television viewing by school-aged children, there are none for younger children.

Objective: To develop and evaluate an intervention to reduce television viewing by preschool children.

Design: Randomized controlled trial conducted in 16 preschool and/or day care centers in rural upstate New York.

Patients: Children aged 2.6 through 5.5 years.

Intervention: Children attending intervention centers received a 7-session program designed to reduce television viewing as part of a health promotion curriculum, whereas children attending the control centers received a safety and injury prevention program.

Outcome measurements: Change in parent-reported child television/video viewing and measured growth variables.

Results: Before the intervention, the intervention and control groups viewed 11.9 and 14.0 h/wk of television/videos, respectively. Afterward, children in the intervention group decreased their television/video viewing 3.1 h/wk, whereas children in the control group increased their viewing by 1.6 h/wk, for an adjusted difference between the groups of -4.7 h/wk (95% confidence interval, -8.4 to -1.0 h/wk; P =.02). The percentage of children watching television/videos more than 2 h/d also decreased significantly from 33% to 18% among the intervention group, compared with an increase of 41% to 47% among the control group, for a difference of -21.5% (95% confidence interval, -42.5% to -0.5%; P =.046). There were no statistically significant differences in children's growth between groups.

Conclusions: This study is the first to show that a preschool-based intervention can lead to reductions in young children's television/video viewing. Further research is needed to determine the long-term effects associated with reductions in young children's television viewing.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anthropometry
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New York
  • Rural Population
  • Television*