Use of Social Media by Fathers of Premature Infants

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Although parents of premature infants experience many challenges when transitioning home from the neonatal intensive care unit, healthcare providers and social support systems tend to focus on mothers and infants rather than fathers. Unfortunately, very little is known about paternal concerns and needs as compared with maternal ones. The lack of understanding about paternal needs may lead to inadequate designs of neonatal intensive care unit family support programs with less involved fathers, all of which contribute to increased burdens on mothers and poor health outcomes for their infants. Although information technology (IT) might have the potential to increase support for the fathers of preterm infants, only a few studies have examined systematically how IT applications can be beneficial. This study aims to advance the understanding of needs and concerns of fathers with preterm infants and how fathers use the IT applications (eg, social networking Web sites) to support themselves. We observed qualitatively various social networking Web sites (ie, 29 Web sites) where fathers share their experiences about preterm infants. We discovered that fathers used various social media to discuss their concerns and, in turn, obtained informational, companionship, and emotional supports. On the basis of our analysis, we provide insights into a father-centered technology intervention design.

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