Children are spending an increasing amount of time watching television, DVDs or videos, or playing computer or video games, which is associated with a variety of health problems including obesity and poor language development. In a study, researchers examined the effectiveness of counseling parents of 3-year-olds at their doctor’s visit about the health impact of screen time and giving them strategies to decrease their children’s screen time.
The study, “Office-Based Randomized Controlled Trial to Reduce Screen Time in Preschool Children,” in the December 2012 Pediatrics (published online Nov. 5), assigned 160 children from the TARGet Kids! primary care research network to either the intervention or control group. After a year, there was no difference in screen time between the two groups, but the group who received counseling ate fewer meals in front of the television.
Children who eat meals while watching TV may not be able to read their own internal cues of fullness and may eat larger portions and less healthy foods. Study authors conclude that programs to reduce screen time and prevent obesity should carefully consider what behaviors to target, and how to format the intervention.