Mothers’ and father’s perceptions of the risks and benefits of screen time and physical activity during early childhood: A qualitative study

Background: This study sought to explore mothers’ and fathers’ perceptions of the risks and benefits of screen time and active play during early childhood. Methods: In-depth semi structured telephone interviews were conducted with mothers and fathers (n = 28) of children aged 3-5 years who had earlier taken part in a larger quantitative study in Australia and identified willingness to be re-contacted were recruited. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analysed using NviVo. Coding was performed to produce themes. Quotes were extracted from the transcripts to illustrate common responses. COREQ guidelines for qualitative papers were followed. Results: Parents reported active play was beneficial for many health and developmental outcomes such as imagination, enjoyment and socialisation, while reporting risks such as safety and stranger danger. There were mixed perceptions of screen time, with benefits such as learning, education and relaxation, and risks including habit formation, inappropriate content, negative cognitive and social outcome, and detriments to health being reported. A few differences between mothers’ and fathers’ perceptions were evident. Conclusion: This study identified that some parental perceptions of benefits and risks of screen time and active play were consistent with published evidence, while others were contradicted by current evidence. Future studies should consider evidence-based education to ensure parents are aware of evidence-based outcomes of children’s behaviours. Interventions may wish to capitalise on parents perceived benefits to enhance engagement. © 2018 The Author(s).

Background: This study sought to explore mothers’ and fathers’ perceptions of the risks and benefits of screen time and active play during early childhood. Methods: In-depth semi structured telephone interviews were conducted with mothers and fathers (n = 28) of children aged 3-5 years who had earlier taken part in a larger quantitative study in Australia and identified willingness to be re-contacted were recruited. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analysed using NviVo. Coding was performed to produce themes. Quotes were extracted from the transcripts to illustrate common responses. COREQ guidelines for qualitative papers were followed. Results: Parents reported active play was beneficial for many health and developmental outcomes such as imagination, enjoyment and socialisation, while reporting risks such as safety and stranger danger. There were mixed perceptions of screen time, with benefits such as learning, education and relaxation, and risks including habit formation, inappropriate content, negative cognitive and social outcome, and detriments to health being reported. A few differences between mothers’ and fathers’ perceptions were evident. Conclusion: This study identified that some parental perceptions of benefits and risks of screen time and active play were consistent with published evidence, while others were contradicted by current evidence. Future studies should consider evidence-based education to ensure parents are aware of evidence-based outcomes of children’s behaviours. Interventions may wish to capitalise on parents perceived benefits to enhance engagement. © 2018 The Author(s).

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