"Socioeconomically Diverse Latino Mothers and Fathers’ Attitudes, Beliefs, and Use of Mobile Technology with Children"
SRCD 2019 Biennial Conference
March 21-23, 2019
Title: Socioeconomically Diverse Latino Mothers and Fathers’ Attitudes, Beliefs, and Use of Mobile Technology with Children
Session: Familial and Contextual Influences on Media Use for Families with Young Children
Authors: Wendy Ochoa, Stephanie Reich, Audrey Helen Mosley
Abstract: Introduction: Today, most U.S. families with young children have access to a mobile screen device, such as a smartphone or tablet (Pew Research Center, 2017). From previous research with TV, we know that screen media can both positively and negatively influence family interactions and child outcomes depending on how it is used (Kirkorian et al., 2009), and that socioeconomic status along with attitudes and beliefs about technology influence how they are used (Rideout, 2014). However, now that screen media have become mobile, multifunctional, and instantly accessible, we know very little about how families with young children are using them or how they feel about their use. The limited but growing body of research suggests that families feel conflicted about using these devices for themselves and their children, and that many use them as tools to manage their children’s behaviors, foster children’s skills, access information, receive support, and momentarily escape stress (Radesky et al., 2016). However, most of this research has been done with middle-class, White mothers. Research examining how and why socioeconomically and linguistically diverse parents from ethnic minorities, especially fathers, are using them remains scarce. This is particularly true for Latino mothers and fathers, who comprise nearly 1/5 of the total U.S population, and are among the groups that most heavily rely on their smartphones for access to the Internet (Pew Research Center, 2015).
To address these gaps, this study uses semi-structured interviews to investigate how 40 socioeconomically diverse Latino mothers (n = 20) and fathers (n=20) of children under the age of five use mobile screen technologies, along with their attitudes and beliefs about how these devices support and hinder their parenting and children’s learning.
In line with past research, all parents felt that their smartphones and/or tablets supported them in their parenting role. For example, some parents reported frequently using mobile devices to access information about their child, especially when they had concerns. However, higher SES mothers and fathers reported reading online, research-based information more often than lower SES parents. In comparing parents, mothers expressed concerns that mobile technologies could potentially hinder their parenting by paying more attention to their device than their child during family time. No fathers reported this concern. Overwhelmingly, parents felt that smartphones and tablets could benefit their children’s learning (e.g. learn colors, numbers, new concepts), especially Spanish-speaking parents. However, middle-to-high income parents tended to emphasize the importance of parent involvement to facilitate their child’s learning. Several mothers and fathers described mobile devices as useful for supporting their children’s bilingual development (e.g. playing Spanish lullabies). These findings provide insight into how and why socioeconomically diverse Latino parents with young children use mobile technologies. This is important for informing the design of educational technology and an important first step in identifying optimal media habits for socioeconomically and linguistically diverse families.