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Obesity Prevention and Control: Behavioral Interventions to Reduce Screen Time

Behavioral interventions to reduce screen time (time spent watching TV, videotapes, or DVDs; playing video or computer games; and surfing the internet) can be single-component or multicomponent and often focus on changing screen time through classes aimed at improving children’s or parents’ knowledge, attitudes, or skills. These interventions may include:

  • Skills building, tips, goal setting, and reinforcement techniques
  • Parent or family support through provision of information on environmental strategies to reduce access to television, video games, and computers
  • A “TV turnoff challenge” in which participants are encouraged not to watch TV for a specified number of days

Summary of Task Force Recommendations and Findings

The Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends  behavioral interventions aimed at reducing screen time based on sufficient evidence of effectiveness for reducing measured screen time and improving weight-related outcomes. Screen time was reduced by 36.6 min/day (range: -26.4 min/day to -55.5 min/day) and a modest improvement in weight-related outcomes was observed when compared to controls. Most of the interventions evaluated were directed at children and adolescents.  

Task Force Finding and Rationale Statement

Results from the Systematic Review

Seven studies qualified for the review.

  • Screen time (hours per day): decrease of 0.61 hrs/day (interquartile interval: –0.44 to –0.925 hrs/day; 4 studies)
  • Sedentary behavior and related outcomes: in favor of the intervention (3 studies)
  • Weight-related outcomes: modest improvement (5 studies)
  • Physical activity: inconsistent and non-significant effects (3 studies)
  • Nutrition: findings in favor of the intervention (4 studies)
  • Applicable to children ages 3 to 17 (6 of 7 studies)

These results were based on a systematic review of all available studies, conducted on behalf of the Task Force by a team of specialists in systematic review methods, and in research, practice and policy related to obesity prevention and control.

Supporting Materials

Publication Status

Full peer-reviewed articles of this systematic review will be posted on the Community Guide website when published. Subscribe External Web Site Icon to be notified when we post these publications or other materials. See our library for previous Community Guide publications on this and other topics.




Disclaimer

The findings and conclusions on this page are those of the Community Preventive Services Task Force and do not necessarily represent those of CDC. Task Force evidence-based recommendations are not mandates for compliance or spending. Instead, they provide information and options for decision makers and stakeholders to consider when determining which programs, services, and policies best meet the needs, preferences, available resources, and constraints of their constituents.

Sample Citation

The content of publications of the Guide to Community Preventive Services is in the public domain. Citation as to source, however, is appreciated. Sample citation: Guide to Community Preventive Services.  Obesity prevention and control: behavioral interventions to reduce screen time. www.thecommunityguide.org/obesity/behavorial.html. Last updated: MM/DD/YYYY.

Review completed: January 2008