New Publications: Behavioral Screen Time Interventions Prevent Childhood Obesity

A young girl points a remote control at a flat panel TV monitorAre interventions aimed at reducing the time children spend viewing TV and other screen media (e.g., computers and video games) effective at preventing or controlling childhood obesity? Yes, says the Community Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force), in a publication released in the March 2016 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The full-text recommendation is available online along with the evidence review.

What is the Task Force’s Recommendation?

The Community Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) recommends behavioral interventions to reduce recreational sedentary screen time among children aged 13 years and younger. This finding is based on strong evidence of effectiveness in reducing recreational sedentary screen time, increasing physical activity, improving diet, and improving or maintaining weight-related outcomes.

The Task Force bases its recommendations on systematic reviews of scientific studies. Under Task Force direction, scientists and experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conduct the reviews in collaboration with a wide range of government, academic, policy, and practice-based partners.

What are “Behavioral Interventions that Aim to Reduce Recreational Sedentary Screen Time”?

Behavioral interventions that reduce recreational (i.e., neither school-related nor work-related) sedentary screen time teach self-management skills to initiate or maintain behavior change.

Behavioral screen time interventions are classified into two types:

  • Screen-time-only interventions, which only focus on reducing recreational sedentary screen time
  • Screen-time-plus interventions, which focus on reducing recreational sedentary screen time and increasing physical activity and/or improving diet.

Screen-time-only and screen-time-plus interventions teach behavioral self-management skills through one or more of the following components:

  • Classroom-based education
  • Tracking and monitoring
  • Coaching or counseling sessions
  • Family-based or peer social support

Interventions may include one or more additional components: use of an electronic monitoring device to limit screen time; TV Turnoff Challenge; screen time contingent on physical activity; or small media.

Why are these Task Force Recommendations Important?

  • Approximately 17% of all US children and adolescents aged 2-19 years are obese. (Ogden et al. 2014)
  • Obese children are more likely to have risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes; they are also more likely to become obese adults. (Freedman et al. 2007; Rosenbloom et al. 1999; Biro & Wien 2010)
  • Recreational time sent viewing TV and/or or other screen media is associated with increased overweight and obesity in children. (Hancox et al. 2004)
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting children’s (2 18-year-olds) screen time to less than 2 hours of quality programming per day, and no screen time for children under 2 years. (AAP, 2001)
  • Despite these recommendations, children 0-6 years spend an average of just over 2 hours per day with screen media, and children ages 8-18 years report 7.5 hours per day of screen media. (Rideout et al. 2010; Rideout et al. 2011)

What are the Task Force and The Community Guide?

  • The Community Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) is an independent, nonfederal, unpaid panel of public health and prevention experts. The Task Force works to improve the health of all Americans by providing evidence-based recommendations about community preventive programs, services, and policies to improve health. Task Force members represent a broad range of research, practice, and policy expertise in community prevention services, public health, health promotion, and disease prevention.
  • The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide) is a website that is a collection of all the evidence-based findings and recommendations of the Community Preventive Services Task Force.


American Academy of Pediatrics. Children, adolescents, and television. Pediatrics 2001;107(2):423-6.

Biro FM, Wien M. Childhood obesity and adult morbidities. Am J Clin Nutr 2010;91(5):1499s-505s.

Freedman DS, Mei Z, Srinivasan SR, Berenson GS, Dietz WH. Cardiovascular risk factors and excess adiposity among overweight children and adolescents: the Bogalusa Heart Study. J Pediatr 2007;150(1):12-7 e2.

Hancox RJ, Milne BJ, Poulton R. Association between child and adolescent television viewing and adult health: a longitudinal birth cohort study. Lancet 2004;364(9430):257-62.

Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. JAMA 2014;311(8):806-14.

Rideout V. Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America. Common Sense Media; 2011.

Rideout VJ, Foehr UG, Roberts DF. GENERATION M2Media in the lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Menlo Park, CA; 2010 2010.

Rosenbloom AL, Joe JR, Young RS, Winter WE. Emerging epidemic of type 2 diabetes in youth. Diabetes Care 1999;22(2):345-54.

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