Use of text messaging for monitoring sugar-sweetened beverages, physical activity, and screen time in children: a pilot study

J Nutr Educ Behav. Nov-Dec 2008;40(6):385-91. doi: 10.1016/j.jneb.2007.09.014.


Objective: To examine acceptability, attrition, adherence, and preliminary efficacy of mobile phone short message service (SMS; text messaging) for monitoring healthful behaviors in children.

Design: All randomized children received a brief psychoeducational intervention. They then either monitored target behaviors via SMS with feedback or via paper diaries (PD) or participated in a no-monitoring control (C) for 8 weeks.

Setting: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Participants: Fifty-eight children (age 5-13) and parents participated; 31 completed (SMS: 13/18, PD: 7/18, C: 11/22).

Intervention: Children and parents participated in a total of 3 group education sessions (1 session weekly for 3 weeks) to encourage increasing physical activity and decreasing screen time and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption.

Main outcome measures: Treatment acceptability, attrition, and adherence to self-monitoring.

Analysis: Descriptive statistics and nonparametric tests were used to analyze differences across time and group.

Results: Children in SMS had somewhat lower attrition (28%) than both PD (61%) and C (50%), and significantly greater adherence to self-monitoring than PD (43% vs 19%, P < .02).

Conclusions and implications: Short message service may be a useful tool for self-monitoring healthful behaviors in children, although the efficacy of this approach needs further study. Implications suggest that novel technologies may play a role in improving health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Beverages / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child
  • Child Nutrition Sciences / education*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communication
  • Data Collection / instrumentation
  • Data Collection / methods*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parents
  • Patient Compliance
  • Pilot Projects
  • Self Disclosure
  • Telephone
  • Television / statistics & numerical data*