Due to the rapid development of information technology, a high percentage of the world’s population uses the internet (Lukavska, Vacek, & Gabhelik, 2020). Adolescents have not been left behind, as they are online at levels never witnessed before. The ease of access to smartphones and other technologies that can access the internet has made this possible. The internet offers many opportunities and possibilities to users, such as relaxing, socializing, and learning. However, it can also expose users to risks, such as cybervictimization, cyberbullying, uncontrollable excessive use, problematic internet use, and exposure to inappropriate content. According to Lukavska, Vacek, and Gabhelik (2020), an increase in the cases of adolescents that have been exposed to cyberbullying and cybervictimization has led to a focus on how parents and guardians can help in controlling children and adolescent online behavior. Many researchers believe that parents and guardians are the primary source of social influence for children and adolescents (Lukavska, Vacek, & Gabhelik, 2020; Goldstein, 2015), which means that they can play a significant role in addressing cyberbullying and cybervictimization.
Notably, adolescence is characterized by a desire for increased autonomy; however, there are limits to it because it can place adolescents at risk for problem behaviors. Autonomy can cultivate negative behaviors on the internet, such as cyberbullying (Goldstein, 2015). Therefore, parents have a task to find a balance between providing enough autonomy to their children regarding internet use to reduce the possibility of them being exposed to cyberbullying or cybervictimization. Thus, parental control is an important topic to examine in the wake of increasing exposure of children and adolescents to online content that has been enabled by smartphone access. Exploring the relevance of parental control to children and adolescents’ online behavior is necessary to understand ideal control interventions that parents can rely on to monitor and protect these children and adolescents from negative behavior online.
It is argued that parental engagement plays a vital role in determining adolescents’ involvement in cyberbullying. The study by Baldry, Sorrentino, and Farrington (2019) found that boys involved in cyberbullying cited the less likelihood of their parents educating them about internet use and inherent risks. Additionally, it found significant gender differences regarding involvement in cyberbullying, as boys had a higher likelihood of being cyberbullies than girls. The study examined the relationship between parental roles monitoring, control, and supervision and adolescents’ involvement in cybervictimization and cyberbullying. It involved 4390 Italian adolescents aged between 13 and 18. It relied on an Italian translation of the Students’ Needs Assessment Survey to measure the nature and prevalence of cybervictimization and to cyberbully among the students.
Mater and Bauman (2018) also agree that parental engagement is critical in determining adolescents’ involvement in negative online behavior. The study found that moral disengagement from parents regarding parental monitoring and cyberbullying affects cyberbullying involvement and can significantly impact other experiences besides the cyber context. It involved 800 participants who were students in grades 3-8. The scales created in the study to help learn more about cyberbullying’s predictors and consequences helped understand the vital role that parents play in determining the involvement of children and adolescents in cyberbullying.
Elsaesser et al. (2017) also investigated parents’ influence on their adolescents concerning their involvement in cyberbullying. According to the study’s findings, parents play an essential role in the participation of children and adolescents in cyberbullying, as their provision of emotional warmth can encourage these children and adolescents to disclose their online activity. It is easy for the parents to guide with such disclosure. The study reviewed 23 cross-sectional studies on the topic of cyberbullying and parenting.
The significant research gap present within the literature is that the studies failed to distinguish the factors that enabled these children and adolescents to the internet. In all the studies, the researchers stated that smartphones had allowed the access of children and adolescents to the internet (Meter & Bauman, 2018; Elsaesser et al., 2017; Baldry, Sorrentino, & Farrington, 2019). However, the primary concern is the role played with other factors in enabling this access, such as time, internet costs, and the costs of smartphones. It is essential to understand these factors to present a clear picture of the role of parents in enabling internet access. Also, most of the studies fail to cover the ethical aspect of this topic, the moral duty of parents in ensuring that their children are cared for and protected from different forms of abuse. Meter and Bauman (2018) focus on the moral aspect of parental involvement, specifically, the vital role of moral standards in determining how parents become engaged in their adolescents’ online activities. More research is needed on this to provide a clearer picture of the influence of parents in limiting cyberbullying and cybervictimization.
The paper seeks to answer the primary research question: What is the relevance of parental control to children and adolescents’ online behavior? Other secondary research questions that the study seeks to answer are:
- How can parents or guardians exercise parental control over their children’s access to the internet?
- Do different parental controls have the same impact on children and adolescents’ online behavior?
The methodological approach that will be used for this research is digital ethnography. Digital ethnography as a research method represents real-life cultures by combining the identified technological elements with the phenomena under study (Kaur-Gill & Dutta). Digital ethnography is considered to have originated from traditional ethnography, as it is its digital transformation. The methodological approach leverages the power of computers and smartphones to assist a researcher in generating rich and contextual insights into a human experience. Since the ease of access of smartphones enabled the problem being investigated, digital ethnography would be the best methodological approach. The participants will use these smartphones to provide information about the study’s experiences with cyberbullying. Digital ethnography was selected because it will help examine parenting, a cultural element and its association with cyberbullying and online behaviors, technological factors.
The ability to relate social or cultural values to technology makes digital ethnographical study appropriate for this topic. The method aims to help understand behavioral and relational patterns of societal elements over the digital space (Kaur-Gill & Dutta). In this case, parenting is conventional care and protection role that adults have over their children. Digital ethnography circumvents geographical boundaries, cultural barriers, and other societal structures, which may make it challenging to get the study’s participants (Kaur-Gill & Dutta). Another key advantage of digital ethnography, which makes it the ideal choice over other research methods, is less intimidating. Unlike other data collection methods, which appear intimidating due to the presence of researchers, digital ethnography is less intrusive. Collecting digital information through smartphones is less invasive, allowing participants to express authentic feelings or experiences (Caliandro, 2017). Therefore, such information can be more representative of the truth than when a participant is in a room being interviewed by the researcher. Also, the methodological approach is ideal due to the ability to access information from any part of the world. Therefore, the study will not be limited when digital ethnography is used. A disadvantage of this methodological approach is getting users to participate in the study due to cybersecurity threats (Caliandro, 2017). The participants will likely be placed at risk of their personal identifying information being hacked, as they will be using their smartphones, which contain significant amounts of data. Also, the challenge is to verify the authenticity of the user’s information as some of them may present wrong information, which may affect the credibility of the research.
For the digital ethnography study exercise, I will use a parenting website and a parental control app from Google to generate the needed results to answer the research question. The parenting website is a virtual platform that brings together parents all over the world over which they share different experiences and challenges they face in their modern families. One challenge highlighted by most parents from the website is protecting their children from digital predators that prey on their innocence. Also, most establish that various online platforms influence their children’s behavior more than their actual parenting practices. The parental control app is associated with the website, downloaded from Google Play Store. The application has features that enable parents to restrict their children’s digital devices from accessing certain websites without authorization. In addition, the user can monitor all online activities their child engages in when interacting with the digital community. As a result, the parent can determine when their child is being cyberbullied or engaging in unhealthy online behaviors.
The users of the digital parenting website are all parents with success and challenging stories. Thus, the users on this platform will help me understand how they institute effective parenting with digital influence. I will establish if they practice physical restrictions where children are entirely barred from using technology unless for school purposes. For the users who adopt the physical restriction practices to control their children’s online behaviors, I will be able to establish the type of relationship they share with their children, given that everyone is virtually connected today.
I will aim to determine if the users on the parental website have experienced certain defiance behaviors because of restricting their children from digital engagement. Another set of participants from the website are parents who use integrated technology into their parenting styles. Users who use parental control applications to monitor their children’s online behaviors will provide an insight into the method’s efficiency. I will also want to know if the parent informs their children that they monitor their online behaviors or do it without their knowledge. The parental control app and the website emerge to be a rich source of information to fulfill the study’s objective. Thus, the digital parenting practices and parental control applications are crucial cues for generating the needed data for the study.
The research will help understand the critical role parental control plays in determining children and adolescents’ online behavior in the wake of increased exposure to cyberbullying and cybervictimization. Achieving this will involve reliance on the digital ethnography methodological approach, which will allow the researcher to collect information on the study through smartphones. The methodological approach will be ideal in examining the relevance of parental control children and adolescent online behavior because collecting digital information through smartphones is less intrusive, which allows participants to express authentic feelings or experiences. The research will help understand the topic by providing authentic experiences from children and adolescents regarding the influence of their parents and guardians on cyberbullying and cybervictimization, which will inform future policies aimed at controlling their exposure to their internet.
Baldry, A., Sorrentino, A., & Farrington, D. (2019). Cyberbullying and cybervictimization versus parental supervision, monitoring and control of adolescents’ online activities. Children and Youth Services Review, 96, 302-307. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2018.11.058
Caliandro, A. (2017). Digital methods for ethnography: Analytical concepts for ethnographers exploring social media environments. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 47(5), 551-578. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0891241617702960
Elsaesser, C., Russell, B., Ohannessian. C., & Patton, D. (2017). Parenting in a digital age: A review of parents’ role in preventing adolescent cyberbullying. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 35, 62-72. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2017.06.004
Goldstein, S. (2015). Parental regulation of online behavior and cyber aggression: Adolescents’ experiences and perspectives. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 9(4). https://doi.org/10.5817/CP2015-4-2
Kaur-Gill, S., & Dutta, M. J. (2017). Digital Ethnography. The International Encyclopedia of Communication Research Methods, 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118901731.iecrm0271
Lukavska, K., & Vacek, J., & Gabhelik, R. (2020). The effects of parental control and warmth on problematic internet use in adolescents: A prospective cohort study. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 9(3), 664-675. https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.2020.00068
Meter, D., & Bauman, S. (2018). Moral disengagement about cyberbullying and parental monitoring: Effects on traditional bullying and victimization via cyberbullying involvement. Journal of Early Adolescence, 38(3), 303-326. https://doi.org/10.1177/0272431616670752