The aim of this study was to explore parents’ responses to changes in children’s physical activity and screen-time between Year 1 (5-6 years) and Year 4 (8-9 years of age) of primary school. A secondary aim was to identify how parents adapt their parenting to rapidly changing screen-based technology.
Data were from the longitudinal B-Proact1v Study. Semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted between July and October 2016 with a sub-sample of 51 parents who participated in the study at Year 4. The sample was drawn from 1223 families who took part in the B-Proact1v in which the children wore an accelerometer for 5 days and mean minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) and sedentary minutes per day were derived. This sample was stratified according to the child’s MVPA and sedentary (SED) minutes per day, and by child gender. Data were thematically analysed.
Analysis yielded five main themes: 1) Parents reported how children’s interests change with free play decreasing and structured activity increasing. 2) Parents highlighted how their children’s independence and ability to make choices in relation to physical activity and screen-viewing increase, and that parental influence decreased, as the child gets older. 3) Parents reported that the transition from Year 1 to Year 4 appeared to be a time of substantial change in the screen-based devices that children used and the content that they viewed. 4) Parents reported that managing screen-viewing was harder compared to three years ago and a third of parents expressed concerns about the difficulty of managing screen-viewing in the future. 5) Parents reported using general principles for managing children’s screen-viewing including engaging the children with rule setting and encouraging self-regulation.
Parents reported that children’s physical activity and sedentary screen behaviours change between Year 1 and Year 4 with children obtaining increased licence to influence the type, location and frequency with which they are active or sedentary. These changes and rapid advances in screen-viewing technology are a challenge for parents to negotiate and highlight a need to develop innovative and flexible strategies to help parents adapt to a rapidly changing environment.