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Childrens physical activity and screen time: qualitative comparison of views of parents of infants and preschool children

Kylie D Hesketh*, Trina Hinkley and Karen J Campbell

Author Affiliations

School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Hwy, Burwood Victoria, 3125, Australia

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2012, 9:152  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-9-152

Published: 28 December 2012



While parents are central to the development of behaviours in their young children, little is known about how parents view their role in shaping physical activity and screen time behaviours.


Using an unstructured focus group design, parental views and practices around childrens physical activity and screen time (television and computer use) were explored with eight groups of new parents (n=61; child age <12 months) and eight groups of parents with preschool-aged (3–5 year old) children (n=36) in Melbourne, Australia.


Parents generally believed children are naturally active, which may preclude their engagement in strategies designed to increase physical activity. While parents across both age groups shared many overarching views concerning parenting for childrens physical activity and screen time behaviours, some strategies and barriers differed depending on the age of the child. While most new parents were optimistic about their ability to positively influence their childs behaviours, many parents of preschool-aged children seemed more resigned to strategies that worked for them, even when aware such strategies may not be ideal.


Interventions aiming to increase childrens physical activity and decrease screen time may need to tailor strategies to the age group of the child and address parents misconceptions and barriers to optimum parenting in these domains.

Early childhood; Parenting; Physical activity; Screen time; Qualitative study