A survey of Australian parents has found that they frequently use websites and social media as sources of information on parenting: 65% used websites, 45% used social media. Meanwhile, only 4% of the parents used parenting programmes. There was no difference in use of these resources between higher-risk and lower-risk families. But when asked to rate the most useful way to access a structured parenting program, parent seminars and individually tailored programs came out on top, whilst web-based programs and social media came lower down.

459 parents of 2- to 12-year-olds were asked to complete an on-line survey. The sample was made up of:

  • 88% women
  • 84% married/cohabiting
  • 68% working (full-time or part-time)
  • 62% with university education
  • 36% rating themselves as “poor”
  • 20% born overseas

The survey asked about risk factors associated with greater difficulties in parenting – large family, recent migration, Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander status, unemployment, low education, financial hardship, not living with the other parent and elevated levels of child behavior problems. Thirty-four percent of the sample reported no risk factors, 36% reported one and the rest reported two or more.

There was no so-called “digital divide” between lower- and higher-risk parents – their average confidence and hours spent on-line were the same. Website use was the same on average across the group, whilst social media use was associated with being younger, being female and not working.

The study suggests that on-line parenting programmes are a real possibility, with substantially higher levels of access than face-to-face methods. A related study by the same authors found a digital version of the “Triple P Online Brief” programme improved the efficacy and confidence of parents and reduced child behavior problems.

Header photo: Vincent Brown. Creative Commons.