Science of Parenting: Using Technology to Help with Parenting



AMES, Iowa —  From podcasts to text messages and Skype, many parents are adding technology to their parenting toolkit. This month’s Science of Parenting podcast from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach takes a closer look at how parents can use information and communications technology for parenting.

Listening to Science of Parenting is one example, said Susan Walker, coordinator of parent and family education programs and an associate professor in University of Minnesota’s Department of Family Social Science.

“Parents like to listen to podcasts. It’s a great way to get information about parenting and it’s one of the many, many ways that parents are going online, using technology, using cell phones, using digital cameras and connecting with other parents to gather great information and feel better about who they are as parents,” Walker said.

During the 30-minute Science of Parenting podcast, program host Douglas Gentile, an associate professor of psychology and extension specialist at Iowa State, “parent-on-the-street” Mike Murray and Walker discuss using technology for parenting.

The podcast is available for free download from the Science of Parenting website or can be subscribed to in iTunes.

Devices, Programs and Social Support

Information and communications technology is two-fold, Walker said. “We have devices and then we have the programs on the devices. So in our research, when we talk about parents’ use of technology, we ask them about the devices that they use.” But Walker also asks parents about their technology-related activities, to learn whether they use social media, check e-mail or look for information online to improve their parenting.

“You can be at work and you can be emailing your kid, you can be texting them on the cell phone, you can have a web cam open so you can be looking at what’s going on at child care. That’s one of the things we know about technology — it allows parents to be very multi-functional,” Walker said.

Parents also use technology for social support, Walker continued, “finding other parents who are like them, who they share something with.” For example, parents of children with special needs may not know other parents in similar situations in their real-life communities, Walker said, “but they go online and they can find not only information, but they can find a community online and get emotional support.”

In addition, Walker said, “parents are using Facebook and blogging to connect with people they don’t see that often and to maintain those important ties to extended family, friends. … That part of our social network is very, very important to how we parent and who we are as parents.”

But parents also are setting boundaries so that technology doesn’t impede their parenting, Walker said. They are making decisions about the proper use of technology for their family, because they are concerned about “face time” and doing things together that don’t involve technology.

Science of Parenting Resources for Parents

Through the Science of Parenting blog, blogs.extension.iastate.edu/scienceofparenting, ISU Extension and Outreach specialists share and discuss research-based information and resources to help parents rear their children. Parents can join in the conversation and share thoughts and experiences, as well as how they handle parenting responsibilities.

The Science of Parenting podcasts offer research-based parenting advice from experts across the country. The monthly podcasts are available for free download from the Science of Parenting website, www.scienceofparenting.org, or can be subscribed to in iTunes. Each month a new, 30-minute Science of Parenting program will be available, as well as previous podcasts and other research-based parenting information.

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