Office-based randomized controlled trial to reduce screen time in preschool children

Catherine S. Birken, Jonathon Maguire, Magda Mekky, Cedric Manlhiot, Carolyn E. Beck, Julie DeGroot, Sheila Jacobson, Michael Peer, Carolyn Taylor, Brian W. McCrindle, Patricia C. Parkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To determine if an intervention for preschool-aged children in primary care is effective in reducing screen time, meals in front of the television, and BMI. METHODS: A randomized controlled trial was conducted at a primary care pediatric group practice in Toronto, Canada. Three-year-old children and their parents were randomly assigned to receive a short behavioral counseling intervention on strategies to decrease screen time. The primary outcome 1 year later was parent reported screen time. Secondary outcomes included television in the child's bedroom, number of meals in front of the television, and BMI. RESULTS: In the intention-to-treat analysis at 1 year, there were no significant differences in mean total weekday minutes of screen time (60, interquartile range [IQR]: 35-120 vs 65, IQR: 35-120; P = .68) or mean total weekend day minutes of screen time (80, IQR: 45-130 vs 90, IQR: 60-120; P = .33) between the intervention and control group. Adjusting for baseline BMI, there was a reduction in the number of weekday meals in front of the television (1.6 ± 1.0 vs 1.9 ± 1.2; P = .03) but no differences in BMI or number of televisions in the bedroom. CONCLUSIONS: This pragmatic trial was not effective in reducing screen time or BMI but was effective in reducing meals in front of the screen. Short interventions focused solely on reducing screen time implemented in the primary care practice setting may not be effective in this age group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1110-1115
Number of pages6
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Clinical trial
  • Health
  • Meal
  • Obesity
  • Preschool
  • Screen time
  • Television

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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