Background: Children with type 1 diabetes and their parents face rigorous procedures for blood glucose monitoring and regulation. Mobile telecommunication systems show potential as an aid for families' self-management of diabetes.
Objective: A prototype designed to automatically transfer readings from a child's blood glucose monitor to their parent's mobile phone was tested. In this formative stage of development, we sought insights into the appropriateness of the concept, feasibility of use, and ideas for further development and research.
Methods: During four months, a self-selected sample of 15 children (aged 9 to 15 years) with type 1 diabetes and their parents (n = 30) used the prototype approximately three times daily. Parent and child experiences were collected through questionnaires and through interviews with 9 of the parents.
Results: System use was easily integrated into everyday life, and parents valued the sense of reassurance offered by the system. Parents' ongoing struggle to balance control of their children with allowing independence was evident. For children who measured regularly, use appeared to reduce parental intrusions. For those who measured irregularly, however, parental reminders (eg, "nagging") appeared to increase. Although increased reminders could be considered a positive outcome, they can potentially increase parent-child conflict and thus also undermine proper metabolic control. Parents felt that system appropriateness tapered off with the onset of adolescence, partly due to a potential sense of surveillance from the child's perspective that could fuel oppositional behavior. Parental suggestions for further developments included similar alerts of irregular insulin dosages and automatically generated dietary and insulin dosage advice.
Conclusions: User enthusiasm suggests that such systems might find a consumer market regardless of whether or not they ultimately improve health outcomes. Thus, more rigorous studies are warranted to inform guidelines for appropriate use. Potentially fruitful approaches include integrating such systems with theory-based parenting interventions and approaches that can aid in interpreting and responding to experiences of surveillance, virtual presence, and balances of power in e-mediated relationships.