Screen-Time Policies and Practices in Early Care and Education Centers in Relationship to Child Physical Activity

Child Obes. Aug/Sep 2018;14(6):341-348. doi: 10.1089/chi.2018.0078.


Background: Few preschool children meet physical activity recommendations, whereas the majority exceeds screen-time recommendations. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship of screen-time policies and practices with children's physical activity and sedentary time in early care and education (ECE) centers.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study of 104 children (3.3 ± 0.5 years; 50% girls) attending 10 ECE centers in the United States. Physical activity was measured by accelerometry. Screen-time practices were measured by classroom observation and director report. Mixed linear models were used to examine the relationship of screen-time practices with children's total physical activity (TPA) and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and sedentary time, adjusting for child's age, sex, and BMI z-score and taking into account the clustering of children within each center. Models were repeated to include director-reported active play time as a covariate.

Results: More limited/supervised screen-time (by observation) was related to higher TPA (p = 0.0003) and lower sedentary time (p = 0.0003). More limited/supervised screen-time (by director report) was related to higher TPA (p < 0.0001) and MVPA (p = 0.021) and lower sedentary time (p < 0.0001). Associations remained significant when active play time was included as a covariate. TPA was inversely related to computer access (p = 0.0015) and positively related to the use of educational screen-time compared with noneducational screen-time (p = 0.04).

Conclusions: Limiting computer usage and ensuring screen-time is educational, and integrated within the curriculum may benefit children's physical activity levels and reduce time spent sedentary.

Keywords: computer; locomotion; movement; preschool child; television.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Accelerometry
  • Child Behavior
  • Child Day Care Centers* / organization & administration
  • Child Day Care Centers* / statistics & numerical data
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Curriculum / statistics & numerical data*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pediatric Obesity / epidemiology
  • Pediatric Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Screen Time*
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • United States / epidemiology