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.