Systematic review of interventions designed to reduce screen time in children and adolescents

Stephanie M Wuelling, The University of Texas School of Public Health


This descriptive systematic review describes intervention trials for children and youth that targeted screen time (ST) as a way to prevent or control obesity and measured ST, and at least one of the following: physical activity, dietary intake, and adiposity. Both “hands-on” (e.g., video games) and “hands free” (e.g., television viewing) ST were included. Published, completed intervention trials (k=12), not-yet-published, completed trials (k=6), and in-progress trials (k=11) were identified through searches of electronic databases, including trial registries and bibliographies of eligible study reports. Study characteristics of the 29 identified trials were coded and presented in evidence tables. Considerable attention was paid to the type of ST addressed, measures used, and the type of interventions. Based on the number of in-progress and not-yet-published trials, the number of completed, published reports will double in the next three years. Most of the studies were funded by federal sources. General populations, not restricted by race, gender, or weight status, were targets of most interventions with children ages 9-12 yeas as the modal age group. Most trials used randomized control trials in which the majority of control or comparison group received an intervention. The mean number of participants was 242.8 (SD=314.7) and interventions were delivered over an average of 10.5 months and consisted of approximately 16 sessions, with a total time of about eight hours. The majority of completed trials evaluate each of the four constructs, however, most studies have more than one measure to assess each construct (e.g., BMI and tricep skinfold thickness to evaluate adiposity) and rarely did studies use the same measures. This is likely why the majority of studies produced at least one significant intervention effect on each outcome that was assessed. The four major outcomes should be evaluated in all interventions attempting to reduce screen time in order to determine the mechanisms involved that may contribute to obesity. More importantly researchers should work together to determine the best measures to evaluate the four main constructs to allow studies to be compared. Another area for consensus is the definition of ST.

Subject Area

Public health

Recommended Citation

Wuelling, Stephanie M, "Systematic review of interventions designed to reduce screen time in children and adolescents" (2007). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1445439.