updated 2/2/2004 8:39:02 PM ET 2004-02-03T01:39:02

Preschoolers put “No TV” signs on their television sets and got rewards for not watching in a study that reduced their viewing by almost a quarter.

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The attempt to prevent kids from becoming couch potatoes involved seven 20-minute weekly sessions at 16 preschools in upstate New York near Cooperstown.

Kids made lists of fun activities besides television, including reading; parents received stickers to reward their children for each TV-free day; and the schools held parties to celebrate surviving without television.

The findings were published in February’s Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Habits become entrenched at early age
Other research has shown similar programs work in older children, but this study is significant because it demonstrates success at an early age before the TV habit becomes firmly entrenched, said Dr. Barbara Dennison of the Bassett Healthcare Research Institute in Cooperstown, who led researchers.

Too much television can lead to weight gain and obesity. But larger, longer studies are needed to determine whether reducing TV watching can help prevent weight problems, the researchers said.

Lea Sloan, a spokeswoman for PBS, whose shows includes “Sesame Street” and “Barney & Friends,” agreed that children should not watch too much television.

But she said that some TV “can advance their curiosity and understanding” and that it should be up to parents to decide how much is too much.

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