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Excessive screen time (≥ 2 h per day) is associated with childhood overweight and obesity, physical inactivity, increased sedentary time, unfavorable dietary behaviors, and disrupted sleep. Previous reviews suggest intervening on screen time is associated with reductions in screen time and improvements in other obesogenic behaviors. However, it is unclear what study characteristics and behavior change techniques are potential mechanisms underlying the effectiveness of behavioral interventions. The purpose of this meta-analysis was to identify the behavior change techniques and study characteristics associated with effectiveness in behavioral interventions to reduce children’s (0–18 years) screen time.


A literature search of four databases (Ebscohost, Web of Science, EMBASE, and PubMed) was executed between January and February 2020 and updated during July 2021. Behavioral interventions targeting reductions in children’s (0–18 years) screen time were included. Information on study characteristics (e.g., sample size, duration) and behavior change techniques (e.g., information, goal-setting) were extracted. Data on randomization, allocation concealment, and blinding was extracted and used to assess risk of bias. Meta-regressions were used to explore whether intervention effectiveness was associated with the presence of behavior change techniques and study characteristics.


The search identified 15,529 articles, of which 10,714 were screened for relevancy and 680 were retained for full-text screening. Of these, 204 studies provided quantitative data in the meta-analysis. The overall summary of random effects showed a small, beneficial impact of screen time interventions compared to controls (SDM = 0.116, 95CI 0.08 to 0.15). Inclusion of the Goals, Feedback, and Planning behavioral techniques were associated with a positive impact on intervention effectiveness (SDM = 0.145, 95CI 0.11 to 0.18). Interventions with smaller sample sizes (n < 95) delivered over short durations (< 52 weeks) were associated with larger effects compared to studies with larger sample sizes delivered over longer durations. In the presence of the Goals, Feedback, and Planning behavioral techniques, intervention effectiveness diminished as sample size increased.


Both intervention content and context are important to consider when designing interventions to reduce children’s screen time. As interventions are scaled, determining the active ingredients to optimize interventions along the translational continuum will be crucial to maximize reductions in children’s screen time.

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© The Author(s) 2021. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativeco applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

APA Citation

Jones, A., Armstrong, B., Weaver, R. G., Parker, H., von Klinggraeff, L., & Beets, M. W. (2021). Identifying effective intervention strategies to reduce children’s Screen time: A systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 18(1).