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Health & Parenting

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Young Kids Can Learn to Kick the TV Habit

Education Campaign Successful in Getting Preschoolers to Cut Back on TV

WebMD Health News

June 30, 2005 -- Public education campaigns can help young children cut back on their daily TV time, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that a statewide campaign that included a "less TV' message aimed at preschoolers was effective in getting children to turn off the TV.

Before the campaign, 64% of the low-income families surveyed said their children watched two hours or less of TV a day. Six months later, that number rose to 71%.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children age 2 and older watch no more than one to two hours of television per day. Decreasing the amount of television-watching time is often recommended as a way to reduce childhood obesity.

Children Cut Back on TV

In the study, researchers surveyed about 10,000 clients and staff of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, before and six months after a statewide campaign in Washington.

The WIC is a federal program that provides food, nutrition counseling, and health information for low-income women and their children. WIC serves nearly half of all infants and one-fourth of all children aged 1 to 5 in the U.S.

The campaign included a "less TV" message as part of a larger program delivered by WIC to their clients and staff. The program included informational materials, such as posters and pamphlets, and group sessions to encourage WIC staff and clients to eat more meals together as a family and get more exercise.

Before the program, 65% of the participants said they never, or usually never, watched television during meals; six months later that number rose to 69%.

Among families in the WIC nutrition program, 64% said their children watched two hours or less of TV per day before the campaign. After the campaign, that number rose to 71%.

The study also showed that families that were nonwhite, had lower levels of education among the parents, and had more children were more likely to watch more than two hours of television per day and to watch TV during meals.

The results of the study may be applied to develop national policies for television -- reduction strategies as part of efforts to reduce the number of overweight children in the U.S., they write.

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