Internet is a vast network, that gathers information, connects people, creates support, helps organize, allows individuals to share their lives and stories, but it is also a place where cyberbullying, harassment, misinformation, and such flourish. Due to the risks internet usage contains, it is essential to protect the most vulnerable populations from these deficiencies: children. It is the role of the parents to teach their children how to use the internet safely, and therefore communicate on its risks and dangers.
This study focuses on parent-child communication about internet use and the influence it has on children and adolescents’ acceptance of parental authority. Children learn most from their parents: this is called socialization theory. It refers to parents being the primary agents who teach their children how to function within society, and what is perceived as acceptable. Parental mediation is defined as a type of socialization, related to the use of certain strategies used by parents to limit the negative effects of the media on their children.
Researchers investigate how parents’ communication affects their children’s level of acceptance of parental authority and whether this acceptance is necessary for a successful parental mediation.
The study gathered 357 families from Flanders, the Dutch-speaking region of Belgium. Children’s ages ranged from 13 to 18 years old, corresponding to adolescence, and both the mother and father needed to be included in the study. Mother, father, and child were asked to fill out a questionnaire separately (ie. without consulting each other). All adolescents reported having access to a device at home to go on the internet, a majority of them reported having a smartphone as well as a profile on a social network website.
The categories analyzed in the questionnaire were “open parent-child communication,” “acceptance of parental authority,” “contact with strangers on social network sites,” and “frequency of social network sites usage.”
Results showed that mother-child communication about internet usage leads to more acceptance of parental rules, therefore leading to the adolescent spending less time on social network sites. An adolescent who accepts parental rules is also less likely to have contact with strangers on the internet. However, communication had no significant impact on adolescents adding strangers on social network sites. Older adolescents were most likely to add or have contact with strangers on the internet.
Katrien Symons, Koen Ponnet, Ini Vanwesenbeeck, Michel Walrave, and Joris Van Ouytsel. “Parent-Child Communication about Internet Use and Acceptance of Parental Authority” Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, Volume 64, 2020. DOI 0.1080/08838151.2019.1681870