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February 2004

An Intervention to Reduce Television Viewing by Preschool Children

Author Affiliations

From the Research Institute, Bassett Healthcare, Cooperstown, NY (Drs Dennision and Jenkins and Mr Burdick); Human Ecology, State University of New York at Oneonta (Dr Russo); and the Department of Pediatrics, Columbia University, New York, NY (Dr Dennison).

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004;158(2):170-176. doi:10.1001/archpedi.158.2.170

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.