Date of Award

12-13-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

School Name

School of Communication

Department

Communication

Major Advisor

Wuyu Rain Liu

Second Advisor

Michael Strawser

Third Advisor

Moira O'Keeffe

Abstract

This study explores the different communication strategies parents employ when speaking to their children about their Internet use. The Internet is continuously and rapidly expanding in terms of content range and mobility, and is becoming more and more an integrated and essential part of children across the nation. Thus, parents must be willing and equipped to educate their children about their habits of Internet use through effective mediation strategies. The goal of this study is to understand not only how parents speak to their children about their Internet use, but also how parents currently perceive the significance of these conversations. In addition, the study aims to discover whether there are any associations between parents’ demographic information and the type of mediation strategy they prefer. The objective of the study is to help parents learn to communicate more effectively with their children about healthy Internet practices.

Two divergent mediation strategies are discussed. Active parental mediation emphasizes parents engaging in active discussion with their children, as well as providing a warm, encouraging tone when speaking about Internet use. Restrictive parental mediation refers to primarily relying on household rules to protect their children from the negative influences of the Internet, as well as technological software that helps to protect them from inappropriate content. These communicative strategies not only help their children navigate the countless opportunities provided by the Internet, but also arm them to protect themselves against the dangers of the Internet that threatens their healthy cognitive, social, and emotional development. Research has found that the verbal component of communication has a greater impact than the behavioral component of parental influence. Therefore, the study also emphasizes the verbal component of parents’ mediation strategies, including the frequency, conversation and conformity communication styles, and openness and honesty. 161 parents from a whole family unit (i.e., composed of the biological children of heterosexual spouses) are recruited to participate in an online survey.

Results indicate that parents are currently employing a heavily integrated methodology of both strategies. Parents report to possess a high perception of importance in verbally communicating to their children about their Internet use. Multiple hierarchical regression analyses indicate that male parents are more prone to employ restrictive parental mediation than female parents, and that higher education has a positive effect in the employment of both active parental mediation and restrictive parental mediation. Implications and suggestions for future research are discussed from results.

Available for download on Saturday, February 15, 2020

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