Background: Social media may have the potential to enhance weight management efforts. However, the acceptability of incorporating this entity into pediatrics is unknown. The objective of this project was to explore patients' and parents' perspectives about developing a Facebook group as a component of a pediatric weight management program.
Methods: Semistructured interviews were performed between September, 2011, and February, 2012, with patients and parents in a multidisciplinary weight management program. Interviews explored participants' perceptions of potential benefits, concerns, and preferences related to a program-specific Facebook group. Transcripts were reviewed and themes identified. The study concluded when thematic saturation was achieved.
Results: Participants (n=32) were largely enthusiastic about the idea of a program-specific Facebook group for adolescents. Most preferred a secret group, where only participants would know of the group's existence or group members' identity. No parents expressed concern about security or privacy related to a program-specific Facebook group; one parent expressed concern about undesirable advertisements. Participants endorsed a variety of ideas for inclusion on the page, including weight loss tips, live chats with providers, quizzes, and an incentive system where participants could gain points for making healthy choices. Many parents requested a separate parent-focused page, an idea that was supported by the adolescents.
Conclusions: This study suggests that participants perceive potential benefits from incorporating social media interventions into pediatric weight management efforts. Privacy and security issues do not appear to be major parental concerns. Future work should explore the impact of program-specific social media interventions on outcomes for patients in weight management programs.