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JMIR Pediatrics and Parenting










Background: Several studies support the impact of information communication technology–based interventions to promote physical activity among youth. However, little is known on how technology can be used by the entire family to encourage healthy behavior. Previous studies showed that children and youth rely and are dependent upon the decisions and values of their caregivers when it comes to having a healthy lifestyle. Thus, the exploration of behavior and attitudes of the entire family is needed.

Objective: The study aimed to explore (1) perceptions of how the use of physical activity tracking devices (Fitbit Zip) by families in rural communities influence their patterns of participation in physical activity, (2) how attitudes toward physical activity change as a result of using physical activity tracking devices as a family, and (3) what factors influence participation in physical activity among families in rural communities.

Methods: A total of 11 families with 1 to 3 children of different ages (7-13 years) took part in semistructured group interviews following 2 weeks of using physical activity tracking devices (Fitbit Zip) as a family. The participants were asked to discuss their experience using the Fitbit Zip as a family, the motivation to be physically active, the changes in their pattern of participation in those activities, the level of engagement by different family members, and the factors that affected their participation. All interviews were voice-recorded with the participants’ permission and later transcribed verbatim using pseudonyms. To analyze the data, the principal investigator (IS) used open, axial, and selective coding techniques.

Results: A total of 3 themes and several subthemes appeared from the data. The families in rural communities reported no or minimal changes in physical activities as a result of using physical activity tracking devices (Fitbit Zip) because of a lack of interest or an already active lifestyle. However, the attitude toward physical activity was altered. The family members reported an increased awareness of their activity level, introduced more conversations about active and healthy lifestyles, and changed their view of physical activity to a more positive one. The participants described the changes they were able to make and the constraining factors that stopped them from making further changes in their lifestyle.

Conclusions: Technology might serve as a facilitator to participation in physical activity among families. Technology can motivate the change in attitude toward active recreation. As long-term changes in lifestyle require internal motivation, the change in the attitude might have a more long-lasting impact than the change in the immediate behavior. More longitudinal studies are needed to further explore long-term change in both behavior and attitude toward physical activity. Additional exploration of constraints to participation in physical activity among families is also an important area of exploration.


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