Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Reliability and Validity of a Brief Questionnaire to Assess Television Viewing and Computer Use by Middle School Children

Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Reliability and Validity of a Brief Questionnaire to Assess Television Viewing and Computer Use by Middle School Children

Article excerpt

Prevalence of overweight among children aged 12 to 19 increased from 4.6% in 1966-1970 to 15.5% in 1999-2000. (1) Observational studies indicate excessive television viewing places children and adolescents at risk for becoming overweight. (2,3) Results from two trials suggest a reduction in television viewing time may help prevent childhood obesity. (4,5) National health objectives seek to limit television viewing time for adolescents to two hours or less per day. (6)

Like television viewing, computer use is a common sedentary behavior among youth. Desktop computers entered the home and school during the same decades as increased prevalence of childhood obesity. However, limited research exists on the effects of home computer use on overweight or its association with television viewing time among youth. One study showed that children with access to a home computer watch less television than children without home computers. (7) Another study reported no difference in television viewing time between children with and children without access to a home computer. (8) Because many web sites often contain information about television shows, computer use actually may increase television viewing. (9)

Accurate population level surveillance of television viewing and computer use among youth is vital to understanding population trends in sedentary behaviors, because these habits may create long-term health consequences. National surveillance of these sedentary behaviors occurs in high school students, through the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, but not among younger adolescents. This study was designed, in part, to develop and assess the reliability and validity of a brief questionnaire to assess television viewing and computer use by adolescents aged 11 to 15 years. Intended use of the instrument includes extending national surveillance of television viewing and computer use to younger adolescents.



The Eating and Activity Questionnaire Trial (Project EAST) was conducted from January to June 2002 to develop reliable, valid, and practical assessment questionnaires on nutrition, physical activity, and sedentary behaviors for the purpose of population surveillance of these health-related behaviors in children in grades six through eight. Because the goal was to develop questionnaires useful for surveillance purposes, each questionnaire was designed to assess usual behavior, to be self-administered, and to require less than five minutes to complete. This report present results on the reliability and validity of the questionnaire to assess television viewing and computer use. The question on the 1999 Youth Risk Behavior Questionnaire (YRBS) (11) to evaluate usual television viewing on a school day also was evaluated for reliability and validity.


A pilot version of the questionnaire was tested with focus groups of 53 middle school children. Focus group participants indicated that children determine television time by thinking of the shows they watched and the time of day they watched them. Students also reported considering time spent completing homework and participating in sports when estimating television time. Focus group respondents told study staff that some students watch television and use the computer simultaneously. Using focus group findings, the questionnaire was revised and piloted with 50 middle school children. Pilot testing confirmed that the instrument was brief (average completion time: one minute, 55 seconds; standard deviation: one minute, 14 seconds). No changes were made on the basis of pilot testing.

The final television and computer use questionnaire has five questions. The questionnaire may be obtain on request from the first author. For this study, television viewing covers watching television or videos or playing video games, and computer use covers time spent on the computer outside school, including time spent on the Internet and playing games on the computer. …

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