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Parental Mediation

Strategies that parents/caregivers take to manage, supervise, and control children’s use of media, their impacts on children

From Television to Digital Media: The Shifting Paradigm of Parental Mediation.

Primary Investigators (PI): Jolie Shi; Co-PIs: Chen Liang, and May O. Lwin

Digital media that deliver interactive and/or entertainment content, such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, social television, and video games, have penetrated into children’s learning and social lives in an unprecedented manner. Such digital media have also largely complicated the family and home environment and posit serious challenges to parental mediation framework. This funded research project (The General Research Fund (GRF) 22-23/12624322, HK$397,000 (US$50,560), University Grants Committee, Hong Kong, September 2022 - August 2024) focuses on a paradigm shift of parental mediation to a “parental mediation of digital media” through reorienting the theoretical framework in terms of the following aspects:

  • From “one medium” to “multiple media”

Parental mediation theory and its subsequent research has mainly considered how parental mediation of a single type of media (e.g., television, the Internet, or social media) is practiced. Yet, children today are adept at managing multiple digital devices, and their family media environment is complicated. The framework thus needs to consider the holistic and complex nature of the current family media environment and address how parents mediate children’s engagement within the multiple digital media landscape.

  • From “reducing harm” to “balancing risks and benefits”

​Protecting children from media risks is a primary component in parental mediation theory. It is unsurprising that parental mediation research has overwhelmingly focused on the deleterious effects of media. Yet, such an approach is insufficient to meet growing expectations of children’s digital literacy for learning and employment. To that end, the framework needs to explore how parents optimize children’s use of digital media to reduce the risks and more importantly to prepare them for the forthcoming smart city and future workplaces.

  • From “unidirectional socialization” to “bidirectional socialization”

Parental mediation theory has its roots in socialization theory and mainly considers parents as agents for their children’ media socialization. Yet, emerging research has suggested a bidirectional socialization, which also means that children could be agents for parents’ media, especially digital media, socialization. Therefore, the theory should no longer consider children as objects of parental mediation but address the dyadic and collaborative nature of parental mediation of digital media.

In sum, this project plans to employ a dyadic approach, which will recruit parent-child dyads in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Mainland China, for in-depth interviews and a cross-national survey. By investigating parental mediation of digital media in three Asian locations, the current project presents ample opportunities to better contextualize parental mediation theory into the Asian cultural context, and to enhance the descriptive ability and explanatory power of the theory in the current age of digital media.

How Parenting Factors and Child Educational Environment Influence Children’s Online Risk-Taking Behaviors: A Mixed Method Assessment

Primary Investigators: May O. Lwin; Collaborator: Wonsun Shin

This research project (Social and Family Research Fund in Singapore, S$74,597, 2016-19) examined how parenting (i.e., parental mediation of children’s digital media use, parental literacy of digital media, and general parenting styles) and educational environmental factors (i.e., school education and cyber wellness programs offered by various organisations) were associated with children’s online risk-taking behaviours. Through a national survey of 1,113 children and their parents in Singapore and in-depth interviews with 20 families, this project examined three types of online risks: privacy risks (eg disclosing personal information online), contact risks (eg making friends with strangers online), and content risks (eg exposing to inappropriate content online). 

From this project, one journal paper has been published in Journal of Family Communication (2021). The project team is working on three other papers to be submitted to journals and international conferences. 

Screen-Obsessed: Parenting in the Digital Age

Published November 2019
By Wonsun Shin and May O Lwin

This is one of the first books focusing solely on parental supervision of children's media use. It distills important information regarding how parents can effectively guide their offspring living in the multimedia environment. This book discusses an extensive range of theories, issues, and subjects of parental mediation. Readers will discover how parental mediation works, new and traditional theoretical facets, and how this knowledge can be applied in various settings pertinent to the family.

Shin, W. (2021). “New rules for parenting in the digital age.” 3-Part Webinar Series: Powerful Strategies in Supporting Your Children for the New Year, ISS International School, Singapore.

Shin, W. (2020). “Screen-obsessed: Parenting in the digital age.” News & Media Research Centre, University of Canberra, October 2020, Australia.

Lisa Needham (2020). How much digital time is too much during COVID-19? Pursuit. The University of Melbourne.  [Interview]

Parenting and Digital Risks: A Cross-Cultural Approach

Primary Investigator: Wonsun Shin; Partner Investigator: May O. Lwin

This project, funded by the University of Melbourne ($14,844, 2017-2019), examined how parents in Australia and Singapore mediate children’s digital media use. Scholars have pointed to the need to understand parental mediation of children’s digital media usage behaviors globally, as much of the scholarly thrust in this field has been in the US and Europe. We undertook this project with the belief that Asia-Pacific offers an interesting and important research environment due to the region’s soaring digital technology usage. 

Our cross-cultural survey of parents in Australia and Singapore revealed that cultural differences do exist in the way parents engage in parental mediation. In both countries, however, digitally literate parents are more likely to engage in discussion-based parental mediation rather than rule-based restrictive mediation. Key findings were presented at the International Communication Association (ICA) Conference (2021) and the Young People and Media Symposium - Makara Human Behavior Studies in Asia (University of Indonesia, January 2019).

Australian Children’s Mediascapes during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Parent Perspective

Investigators: Sybil Nolan, Wonsun Shin, Katherine Day, and Wilfred Wang

COVID-19 has posed unprecedented challenges in parenting children’s media use. Funded by the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne (A$9,821, 2021), an interdisciplinary research team consisting of communication and publishing scholars conducted a national survey of 513 Australian parents of children aged 7-13 to ask the following research questions:

  • How have successive lockdowns affected children’s book reading and screen media use?

  • How has the pandemic affected parental mediation of children’s use of various forms of media?

  • How are socio-economic factors associated with parental mediation practice during the pandemic?

Key findings about children's book reading have been written as a journal manuscript and accepted for publication by Publishing Research Quarterly (in press). More details will be added once it is published.

Parental Mediation: Research
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