Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Parenting

Font Size

Reducing Kids' TV Time: What Works?

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 5, 2012 -- Counseling parents on the health risks of too much TV time for their toddlers doesn't seem to help break the TV habit.

Researchers thought that educating parents about the dangers of excess screen time, with suggestions on how to reduce it, would work.

But in a new study, it didn't, although the counseling did lead to another important behavior change.

"We did find we could reduce the number of meals eaten in front of the screen," says researcher Catherine S. Birken, MD. Birken is a pediatrician at the Hospital for Sick Children and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto.

"That's important, because some research is showing the relationship between screen time and obesity is strongly mediated by what you eat while watching TV," she says.

The study results ''may be depressing but it's not surprising," says Dimitri Christakis, MD, MPH, director of the Center of Child Health, Behavior, and Development at Seattle Children's Hospital Research Institute. He reviewed the study findings for WebMD.

"The majority of American parents already feel bad or guilty about the amount of TV their kids are watching, but they aren't doing anything about it," he says.

The study is published in Pediatrics.

Too Much Screen Time: What's the Problem?

The researchers define screen time as time spent watching TV, videos, and DVDs, and also playing video or computer games. Too much screen time is linked with obesity, delayed language development, aggressive behavior, and other problems, the researchers note.

Screen times have risen in recent years. The average preschooler now gets about four hours a day, according to a recent study by Christakis.

The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly discourages television viewing for children ages 2 or younger. For older children, it advises no more than one to two hours a day of educational, nonviolent programs.

Reducing Screen Time: Study Details

Birken's team decided to test whether counseling parents of 3-year-olds who came to a pediatric practice in Toronto could help them reduce their kids' screen time.

They randomly assigned 160 children and their parents to a counseling group or a comparison group.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
mother and daughter talking
child brushing his teeth
Sipping hot tea
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
rl with friends
tissue box
Child with adhd