Use of Mobile Phones to Help Prevent Child Maltreatment

Use of Mobile Phones to Help Prevent Child Maltreatment

Katelyn M. Guastaferro (Georgia State University, USA), Matthew C. Jackson (Georgia State University, USA), Shannon Self-Brown (Georgia State University, USA), Julie J. Jabaley (Craddock Center, USA) and John R. Lutzker (Georgia State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8239-9.ch074


Child maltreatment prevention interventions have been proven to reduce risk and rates of recidivism, although only recently have these interventions incorporated mobile phone technology in implementation. This article first presents the public health problem of child maltreatment and discusses the use of technology in the at-risk population. Prior public health research that has evaluated the effect of mobile phone technology in implementation is reviewed followed by the few child maltreatment prevention research efforts that have incorporated mobile phones. Limitations of mobile phone technology in this field and future directions are suggested.
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Child maltreatment (CM) is defined as acts of omission (neglect) and commission (abuse) related to the physical, psychological, sexual, medical, or emotional needs of a child resulting in the harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm by a parent or other caregiver (Department of Human and Health Services [DHHS], 2013). Technology has been involved in the screening, identification, and prevention of CM. Its usage transcends subfields and is seen in all aspects of a case of CM from the use of x-rays in identifying instances of physical abuse to the use of technologically assisted prevention efforts. The role of technology in prevention is likely to continue to increase as with the rest of public health. There is much potential for technology in prevention efforts. Mobile phone technology is a technological venture prevention researchers are pursuing given the ability to provide the necessary and immediate consultation and corrective feedback. While its use in the field is nascent, preliminary results are promising for prevention and intervention implementation.

The scope of this chapter is threefold: 1) to review recent prevention and implementation research that specifically uses mobile phone technology; 2) to discuss recent successes in the integration of mobile phone technology in interventions preventing CM; and, 3) to consider the limitations of and potential for future research using mobile phone technology in the prevention of CM. In an effort to contextualize the discussion of the potential impact of mobile phone technology in this field, background on CM is first presented. In addition, technologically enhanced intervention strategies will be highlighted and the opportunities for translation of prior research into technological efforts will be discussed.

As this chapter will demonstrate, the integration of mobile phone technology into the field of child maltreatment prevention is still a new research area. Pioneers and leaders in this nascent field include, but are not limited to: Drs. Kathy Bigelow and Judith Carta at the University of Kansas; Dr. Jenn LeFever at the University of Notre Dame; Dr. Julie Gazmararian at Emory University; and Drs. John R. Lutzker, Shannon Self-Brown, and Dan Whitaker at Georgia State University (see Reference list for relevant citations). This chapter will also serve as a resource for indicating other pioneers in the broader field of public health and its incorporation mobile phone technology.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Child Maltreatment (CM): Can be either acts of commission (abuse) or omission (neglect), perpetrated by the caregiver, which may result in pernicious results related to the physical, psychological, sexual, medical, or emotional needs of a child.

Mobile Phone Technology: The use of mobile phones, and their immanent capabilities, in the implementation or delivery of an intervention.

Technology: Any machine, equipment, or innovative use of knowledge applied to the mitigation or prevention of child maltreatment. May be used as a primary or supplementary component.

Texting: Any short message service (SMS) used to deliver components of an intervention.

SafeCare: An evidence-based parenting home visiting program.

Mobile Phones: Any smart phone, flip phone, or portable phone device.

Implementation: The application of theory and practice to a public health problem.

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