Parental perspectives of a wearable activity tracker for children younger than 13 years: acceptability and usability study
journal contributionposted on 01.11.2019, 00:00 authored by K A Mackintosh, Stephanie Chappel, Jo SalmonJo Salmon, Anna TimperioAnna Timperio, Kylie BallKylie Ball, Helen BrownHelen Brown, Susie MacfarlaneSusie Macfarlane, Nicky RidgersNicky Ridgers
Background: There is increasing availability of, and interest in, wearable activity trackers for children younger than 13 years. However, little is known about how children and parents use these activity trackers or perceive their acceptability. Objective: This study primarily aimed to ascertain parental perspectives on the acceptability and usability of wearables designed to monitor children's physical activity levels. Secondary aims were to (1) identify practical considerations for future use in physical activity interventions and promotion initiatives; (2) determine use of different features and functions incorporated into the accompanying app; and (3) identify parents' awareness of their child's current physical activity levels. Methods: In total, 36 children (18 boys and 18 girls) aged 7-12 years were asked to wear a wrist-worn activity tracker (KidFit) for 4 consecutive weeks and to use the accompanying app with parental assistance and guidance. Each week, one parent from each family (n=25; 21 mothers and 4 fathers) completed a Web-based survey to record their child's activity tracker use, app interaction, and overall experiences. At the end of the 4-week period, a subsample of 10 parents (all mothers) participated in face-to-face interviews exploring perceptions of the acceptability and usability of wearable activity trackers and accompanying apps. Quantitative and qualitative data were analyzed descriptively and thematically, respectively. Thematic data are presented using pen profiles, which were constructed from verbatim transcripts. Results: Parents reported that they and their children typically found the associated app easy to use for activity tracking, though only step or distance information was generally accessed and some difficulties interpreting the data were reported. Children were frustrated with not being able to access real-time feedback, as the features and functions were only available through the app, which was typically accessed by, or in the presence of, parents. Parents identified that children wanted additional functions including a visual display to track and self-monitor activity, access to the app for goal setting, and the option of undertaking challenges against schools or significant others. Other barriers to the use of wearable activity trackers included discomfort of wearing the monitor because of the design and the inability to wear for water- or contact-based sports. Conclusions: Most parents reported that the wearable activity tracker was easy for their child or children to use and a useful tool for tracking their children's daily activity. However, several barriers were identified, which may impact sustained use over time; both the functionality and wearability of the activity tracker should therefore be considered. Overall, wearable activity trackers for children have the potential to be integrated into targeted physical activity promotion initiatives.