Associations between parents’ screen time and childrens’ weight status

What is the influence of parents on screen time and weight status of Brazilian preschool children?

Widjane Goncalves; Rebecca Byrne, Marcelo Viana; Stewart Trost

Childhood obesity is a global problem. In Brazil, recent data has indicated that approximately 1 in 3 children up to 5 years of age are overweight1. This is four times higher than the average for South America2. Despite the high rate of childhood obesity in Brazil and the importance of parents in the acquisition and development of children’s health behaviours, little is known about the interactions between obesity and screen time among these families. This publication investigated the relationship between parent screen time and weight status amongst 318 Brazilian preschool children enrolled in early childhood education and care centers (ECEC) from the city of Caruaru, Pernambuco, Brazil3. This was the first study conducted in a low-middle income country (LMIC) investigating the relationships between parental screen time, parental self-efficacy to limit screen time, child screen time and child weight status.

The results of this study has shown that parental screen time on weekdays and weekend days were positively and significantly associated with child screen time. These interactions were observed, both, directly through parental screen time and indirectly through parental self-efficacy to limit child’s screen time. In this regard, intervention programs should educate parents about the importance of limiting their own screen time, acting as a positive role model for their child. In addition, these programs should encourage increased levels of parental self-efficacy to limit the child screen time, potentially reducing their child’s sedentary behaviour.

Another important finding was the significant positive relationship between child screen time on weekends and child weight status. There was no relationship between child screen time during the week and weight status. This may be because 80% of the participating children attended ECEC full time on weekdays, which is approximately 45 hours at ECEC per week. High exposure to a structured environment with limited screen access may reduce the impact of this sedentary behaviour on the child’s weight status.

Overall, the results of this study has identified potential target behaviours for parents and child that could play a key role in combating childhood obesity in Brazil and in similar communities worldwide.


1SISVAN. (2014). Ministério da Saúde: Sistema de vigilância alimentar e nutricional (SISVAN). Módulo gerador de relatórios públicos: estado nutricional dos indivíduos acompanhados por período, fase do ciclo da vida e índice Brazil:  Retrieved from

2UNICEF. WHO, World Bank. Levels and trends in child malnutrition. New York: UNICEF-WHO-World Bank joint child malnutrition estimates UNICEF; 2017.

3Goncalves WS, Byrne R, Viana MT, Trost SG. Parental influences on screen time and weight status among preschool children from Brazil: a cross-sectional study. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2019 Dec;16(1):27.

If you are interested in getting to know more about this topic, you can freely access the article “Parental influences on screen time and weight status among preschool children from Brazil: A cross-sectional study” through this link <>.

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