Physical activity, gaming and virtual reality: the views of parents of adolescents

Lucy McMichael, Nusa Farič, Katie Newby, henry potts, Adrian Hon, Lee Smith, Andrew Steptoe, Abi Fisher

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Background: Virtual reality (VR) exergaming may be a promising avenue to engage adolescents with physical activity (PA). Since parental support is a consistent determinant of adolescent PA, it is crucial to gather the views of parents of adolescents about this type of intervention. Objective: The aim of this study was to interview parents of younger adolescents (13-17 year old) about PA, gaming and VR as part of a larger study vEngage. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 18 parents of adolescents. Data was synthesized using Framework Analysis. Results: Parents believed encouraging PA in adolescents was important, particularly for mental health benefits. Most parents felt that their children were not active enough. Parents reported their adolescents gamed regularly, with perceptions of gaming mostly negative due to violent content and becoming hooked or addicted to games. There was a dilemma between screen times versus fitness time not just for their adolescent children but for parents themselves. Parents discussed an inability to relate to gaming due to ‘generational differences’ but an exception was exergaming, which they had played with their children in the past (eg, Wii Fit). Specific recommendations for promoting a VR exergaming intervention were provided, but ultimately parents strongly supported harnessing gaming for any positive purpose. Conclusions: The current study suggests promise for a VR exergaming intervention, but this must be framed in a way that it addresses parental concerns, particularly around addiction, violence and safety, without actively involving them participating. While parents would rather their children performed ‘real world’ PA, they believed the key to engaging them was through technology. Overall, there was the perception that harnessing gaming and sedentary screen-time for a positive purpose would be strongly supported.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJMIR Serious Games
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2020


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