Parental Mediation of Adolescent Technology Use

Parental Mediation of Adolescent Technology Use

J. Mitchell Vaterlaus (Montana State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2255-3.ch616


Adolescents are major consumers of interactive technologies (e.g., cell phones, social media). They are motivated to use these technologies to maintain their social relationships in a convenient and private way. The private nature and ease of connectivity afforded by interactive technology has resulted in various parental concerns (e.g., victimization, content) about adolescent technology use. To mitigate these parental concerns, some parents have begun to implement parental mediation strategies. Research has primarily focused on describing the different parental mediation techniques parents implement, parent and adolescent perceptions of parental mediation, and potential barriers to the implementation of parental mediation.
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Adolescence is a developmental time period marked by physical (e.g., puberty), psychological (e.g., identity formation), and psychosocial (e.g., negotiation of parent-child relationships) changes (Erikson, 1950, Grotevant & Cooper, 1986). Puberty is typically seen as the beginning of the adolescent developmental time period, although there is some disagreement regarding when adolescence ends (Bynner, 2007). Hall (1904), an early developmental scholar, posited that adolescence continued into the early twenties, and some current scholars have supported this proposition because the developmental tasks of adolescence are continuing into the mid-twenties (Shwartz, Côté, & Arnett, 2005). Consistent with these historical and contemporary conceptualizations (Bynner, 2007; Hall, 1904; Shwartz et al., 2005), in this chapter adolescence is defined as the time period between the onset of puberty and until the individual reaches their mid-twenties.

Contemporary adolescents have grown up with access to a variety of technologies. The majority of adolescents (13-17 years old) in the United States have access to cell phones (88%) and computers (87%), and 92% of adolescents report going online daily (Lenhart, 2015). Adolescents are the most frequent users of social media and 71% report using more than one social media site (Lenhart, 2015). Parents, too, are technology consumers with 91% reporting that they use the internet and 83% using social media. Technology appears to have become a normative aspect of family life, but parents and adolescents use technology differently (Vaterlaus & Tulane, 2015). Parents primarily use technology for instrumental purposes (e.g., cell phones to track location of child), while adolescents use technology for social reasons (e.g., cell phones to build social relationships).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Interactive Technology: Technology that digitally facilitates interaction between people or allows for user content creation or manipulation.

Digital Generation Gap: A difference between parents and adolescents in knowledge about how to use interactive technology.

Active Mediation: A parental mediation technique where parents use parent-child discussion and participation in their adolescents’ technology use to alert adolescents to risks associated with interactive technology.

Adolescence: The human developmental time period between childhood and adulthood.

Restriction Mediation: A parental mediation technique where parents block access to interactive technology or implement limits (e.g., rules) on adolescents’ interactive technology use.

Parental Mediation: Parental interventions and interactions with their adolescents regarding technology use implemented to promote positive technology use.

Monitoring: A parental mediation technique where parents view adolescents’ activity (e.g., internet history, text messages) on interactive technology with or without the adolescents’ knowledge.

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