Engaging parents in digital sexual and reproductive health education: Evidence from the JACK Trial

Aine Aventin*, Aisling Gough, Theresa McShane, Katie Gillespie, Liam O'Hare, Honor Young, Ruth Lewis, Emily Warren, Maria Lohan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background Evidence supports the central role that parents play in promoting positive sexual behaviour and outcomes in their children, however, they can be difficult to engage in sexual and reproductive health (SRH) education programmes. Digital health promotion that uses online and mobile technologies (OMTs) to promote parent-child communication may offer an innovative solution to reach parents, however, a 2019 review of 31 programmes involving parents in SRH revealed that only two used OMTs and neither reported implementation fidelity or programme acceptability. This study addresses this gap in evidence by reporting acceptability, feasibility and implementation fidelity of digital parental components implemented during a school-based randomised trial.
Methods The Jack Trial is a UK-wide cluster randomised controlled trial recruiting over 8000 adolescents from 66 socially and religiously diverse post-primary schools. An embedded mixed-methods process evaluation explored user engagement with parent components of the If I Were Jack SRH education programme, which include online animated films and a parent-teen homework exercise.
Results A total of 109 adolescents, teachers, parents and SRH policy experts took part in semi-structured interviews and focus groups, 134 parents responded to an online survey, and 3179 adolescents completed a programme engagement and satisfaction questionnaire. Parents who accessed the materials were positive about them; 87% rated them as ‘good or excellent’ and 67% said they helped them have conversations with their child about SRH. Web analytics revealed that 27% of contacted parents accessed the digital materials, with 9% viewing the animated films. Only 38% of teachers implemented the homework exercise, mainly because they assumed that students would not complete it or it might result in backlash from parents.
Conclusions The JACK digital parental materials showed acceptability and potential for increasing reach, however, they were difficult to implement with fidelity. To increase engagement of parents with digital SRH programmes, this study suggests that there is a need to increase school and teacher confidence to communicate with parents on sensitive topics. This demands training and co-produced programme materials for teachers to help them engage parents.
Trial Registration ISRCTN99459996
Original languageEnglish
JournalReproductive Health
Publication statusAccepted - 03 Jun 2020

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