Systematic review of effective strategies for reducing screen time among young children

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2012 Jul;20(7):1338-54. doi: 10.1038/oby.2011.348. Epub 2012 Jan 5.


Screen-media use among young children is highly prevalent, disproportionately high among children from lower-income families and racial/ethnic minorities, and may have adverse effects on obesity risk. Few systematic reviews have examined early intervention strategies to limit TV or total screen time; none have examined strategies to discourage parents from putting TVs in their children's bedrooms or remove TVs if they are already there. In order to identify strategies to reduce TV viewing or total screen time among children <12 years of age, we conducted a systematic review of seven electronic databases to June 2011, using the terms "intervention" and "television," "media," or "screen time." Peer-reviewed intervention studies that reported frequencies of TV viewing or screen-media use in children under age 12 were eligible for inclusion. We identified 144 studies; 47 met our inclusion criteria. Twenty-nine achieved significant reductions in TV viewing or screen-media use. Studies utilizing electronic TV monitoring devices, contingent feedback systems, and clinic-based counseling were most effective. While studies have reduced screen-media use in children, there are several research gaps, including a relative paucity of studies targeting young children (n = 13) or minorities (n = 14), limited long-term (>6 month) follow-up data (n = 5), and few (n = 4) targeting removing TVs from children's bedrooms. Attention to these issues may help increase the effectiveness of existing strategies for screen time reduction and extend them to different populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Behavior*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Parents* / psychology
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Reduction Behavior*
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Television*
  • Time Factors
  • United States