Sedentary behaviour has become a growing public health concern. Currently, it is a common belief that screen time (SCT) is a key factor in high overall sedentary time (ST) and is often used as a primary outcome. However, the evidence is lacking. Therefore, this study investigated the association of objectively assessed total ST with SCT among children. Further, SCT was investigated separately for sedentary level, weight status, gender, and migration background.
For 198 primary school children (7.1 ± 0.7 years, boys: 43.9%) ST was assessed objectively using a multi-sensor device (Actiheart®; CamNtech, Cambridge, UK). The sample was split into three groups (tertiles) to investigate SCT of children with low, medium and high ST. SCT and socio-demographic parameters, such as migration background, were assessed using a parental questionnaire; anthropometric data was collected at schools.
Absolut SCT did not differ significantly among the three sedentary groups: Daily average of SCT was 83.8 ± 55.0 min (27.4% of ST) for children with high ST, 82.8 ± 50.5 min (39.8% of ST) for children with medium ST, and 77.2 ± 59.4 min (71.3% of ST) for those with low ST. However, relatively the SCT percentage of total ST was significantly higher among children with low ST (p < 0.01). Significantly higher SCT was found in children with migration background (p < 0.01), while underweight children had significantly less SCT (p < 0.05). An association of total SCT and overall ST was found for the whole sample (B = 17.11, [2.75; 31.48], p = 0.02), but did not remain when analysis were separated for the groups, except for normal weight children (B = 15.97, [0.13; 31.81], p = 0.05).
The amount of SCT is the same among high, low and medium sedentary children, and high ST is largely independent of SCT. Therefore, SCT cannot be the key contributor to high ST and should not solely be used for predicting or changing children’s sedentary behaviour. Moreover, children’s weight status to classify activity levels and the role of possible compensation mechanisms should be considered in future research and when trying to intervene on ST.
German Clinical Trials Register (DRKS), DRKS-ID: DRKS00000494 DATE: 25/08/2010.