SRCD 2019 Biennial Conference
March 21-23, 2019
Title: Parental Monitoring in a Digital Age (Poster)
Session: Technology, Media & Child Development
Authors: Jennifer Cabrara, Stephanie Reich, Joanna C. Yau
Abstract: Parental monitoring involves parents implementing rules, encouraging appropriate behaviors and tracking children’s whereabouts, activities, and adaptations (Dischon & McMahon, 1998). Studies show that parental monitoring is associated with positive child outcomes, including academic achievement, reduced behavior problems, less risky behaviors, and fewer deviant friends (Amato & Fowler, 2002; Pettit et al., 2001; Kerr & Stattin, 2000). Nowadays, parental monitoring may be changing, as children are increasingly surrounded by digital devices and interacting with others through these devices.
As new technologies such as the Internet and mobile phones are introduced into homes, there are other activities and interactions for parents to monitor (Nakayama, 2011). For instance, children now have multiple digital devices at their fingertips, which they can use to share whatever they want, through social media and text, to whomever they want. Plus, they have access to a vast array of people, information, and other forms of media. Although research on parental monitoring is robust, less has focused on digital activities and what exists is not well connected. To address this limitation, a review and synthesis was conducted on how parental monitoring is implemented in the 21st century.
This qualitative synthesis focuses on (1) what parental monitoring looks like in a digital age and (2) how media and technology are used by parents to monitor their children. Two main databases were used (Google Scholar, PsychINFO) to search for studies involving parental monitoring of children and youths’ device and social media use.
These studies almost always (90%) involved children as the source of information about parental monitoring, while 77% asked parents. Studies included participants 10-25 years, with the vast majority (73%) including12-16 year-olds.
From this review, it is clear that the bulk of research has focused on restrictions for using technology (phones, tablets, computers) and very little has studied monitoring through a device. Device monitoring involved monitoring App use (59%), restricting specific online content (40%), limiting time with the device (40%), and/or taking away/restricting access to the device (4%). Monitoring through the device was far less common, but included parents texting with their child (27%), following/friending their child on social networking sites (27%), and/or reading and approving their child’s social media posts (9%).
Most research on parental monitoring of technology is focused on device restrictions with far less considering devices as tools for monitoring. This is an important omission given that mobile devices may offer a unique way for parents to see what their children are doing and sharing as well as with whom they are interacting. Future research should explore how parental monitoring through the device may be used as a tool for overseeing activities, friendships and behaviors online. Technology changes rapidly and the cost is going down, leading to children getting devices at younger ages and having more consistent connectivity. However, research has not kept up with these advances. This study connects the often studied, but older, construct of parental monitoring to the 21st century and highlights important gaps in the current research around parenting in a digital age.