The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Principal responsibility for study design, data collection and project management was assumed by JB. KB supervised JB, overseeing delivery of the project and supported decisions on study design, analysis and decisions about project modifications. JB led the authoring of the paper, with KB commenting on drafts and suggesting amendments and approving the final manuscript for submission. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.
With ongoing concerns about the sexual health and wellbeing of young people, there is increasing need to innovate intervention approaches. Engaging parents as agents to support their children, alongside capitalising on increasingly sophisticated technological options could jointly enhance support. Converting existing programmes into interactive game based options has the potential to broaden learning access whilst preserving behaviour change technique fidelity. However the acceptability of this approach and viability of adapting resources in this way is yet to be established. This paper reports on the process of converting an existing group programme (“What Should We Tell the Children?”) and tests the acceptability within a community setting.
Translation of the original programme included selecting exercises and gathering user feedback on character and message framing preferences. For acceptability testing, parents were randomised to either the game (n = 106) or a control (non-interactive webpage) condition (n = 76). At time 1 all participants completed a survey on demographics, computer literacy and Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) items. Post intervention (time 2) users repeated the TPB questions in addition to acceptability items. Interviews (n = 17) were conducted 3 months post intervention to gather qualitative feedback on transfer of learning into real life.
The process of conversion identified clear preferences for first person role play, home setting and realistic characters alongside positively phrased feedback. Evaluation results show that the game was acceptable to parents on cognitive and emotional dimensions, particularly for parents of younger children. Acceptability was not influenced by baseline demographics, computer skills or baseline TPB variables. MANOVA analysis and qualitative feedback suggest potential for effective translation of learning into real life. However attrition was more likely in the game condition, potentially due to feedback text volume.
A manualised group programme can be viably converted into a serious game format which is both cognitively and emotionally acceptable. The intervention may be more effectively targeted at parents with younger children, and further game developments must particularly address information dosing. Establishing the viability of digitally converting a group programme is a significant step forward for implementation focused research.