Potential actions include

  • child care settings limiting screen time, including television, cell phones, or digital media, for preschoolers (aged 2–5) to less than 30 minutes per day for children in half-day programs or less than 1 hour per day for those in full-day programs;
  • health care providers counseling parents and children’s caregivers to permit no more than a total of 2 hours per day of screen time, including television, cell phones, or digital media, for preschoolers, including time spent in child care settings and early childhood education programs;
  • health care providers counseling parents to coordinate with child care providers and early childhood education programs to ensure that total screen time limits are not exceeded between at-home and child care or early education settings; and
  • state and local government agencies providing training, tools, and technical assistance for child care providers, early childhood education program teachers and assistants, health care providers, and community service agency personnel in how to provide effective counseling of parents regarding the importance of reducing screen time for young children.

Rationale

The recommended limitation on screen time for children aged 2–5 is related to two different factors, both of which have the potential to contribute to childhood obesity: the food and beverage marketing the child may experience when watching television or interacting with other media, and the amount of screen time to which a child is exposed. Young children are exposed to high levels of food marketing and advertising designed to foster brand loyalty and influence purchasing behavior (Elliott, 2008; Harris et al., 2009a,b; IOM, 2006; Kovacic et al., 2008). Television advertising influences children to prefer and request high-calorie and low-nutrient foods and beverages (IOM, 2006). Conservative estimates suggest that U.S. expenditures for food marketing to children aged 2–17 through television, the Internet, radio, packaging, in-store promotions, video games, and text messages reach $1.6 billion per year (Kovacic et al., 2008). According to a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Bureau of Economics Report, children aged 2–5 are exposed to approximately 25,000 advertisements annually, about 5,400 of which are for food (FTC, 2007).



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