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Prev Med. 2009 Nov;49(5):413-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2009.09.003. Epub 2009 Sep 8.

Effect of electronic time monitors on children's television watching: pilot trial of a home-based intervention.

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  • 1Clinical Trials Research Unit, School of Population Health, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019 Auckland, New Zealand.



This pilot study evaluated the feasibility (recruitment, retention, and acceptability) and preliminary efficacy of a six-week home-based electronic time monitor intervention on New Zealand children's television watching in 2008.


Twenty-nine children aged 9 to 12 years who watched more than 20 h of television per week (62% male, mean age 10.4 years) were randomised to either the intervention or the control group. The intervention group received an electronic TV time monitor for 6 weeks and advice to restrict TV watching to 1 h per day or less. The control group was given verbal advice to restrict TV watching.


Participant retention at 6 weeks was 93%. Semi-structured interviews with intervention families confirmed moderate acceptability of TV time monitors and several perceived benefits including better awareness of household TV viewing and improved time planning. Drawbacks reported included disruption to parents' TV watching and increased sibling conflict. Time spent watching television decreased by 4.2 h (mean change [SD]: -254 [536] min) per week in the intervention group compared with no change in the control group (-3 [241] min), but the difference between groups was not statistically significant, p=0.77. Both groups reported decreases in energy intake from snacks and total screen time and increases in physical activity measured by pedometer and between-group differences were not statistically significant.


Electronic TV time monitors are feasible to use for home-based TV watching interventions although acceptability varies between families. Preliminary findings from this pilot suggest that such devices have potential to decrease children's TV watching but a larger trial is needed to confirm effectiveness. Future research should be family-orientated; take account of other screen time activities; and employ TV time monitors as just one of a range of strategies to decrease sedentary behaviour.

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