Cellphone Conversations Say a Lot About Parent-Child Relationships

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Cell Phone Conversations

Parents reported greater communication and closeness when teenagers initiate calls seeking social support. Credit: Getty Images


How's your relationship with your child?

Researchers say you can tell a lot from your cellphone conversations.

According to the Times of India, much of it depends on who calls whom and the purpose and tone of the conversation.

Lead researcher Robert Weisskirch of California State University tells the newspaper parents often use cellphones to extend their ability to monitor a teenager's whereabouts and activities, track their schoolwork, offer support, voice disapproval or criticism or discipline their teen.

The tone used is important, he tells the newspaper, and, likewise, teenagers may use their cellphone conversations to communicate positive or negative feelings or information with their parents.

Weisskirch proposed seven specific hypotheses about how the frequency, nature and content of parent-adolescent cellphone calls relate to the quality of the parent-child relationship in terms of self-esteem, perceptions of family conflict and family dynamics -- including closeness and support.

The results are published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.

Weisskirch says parents reported greater communication and closeness when teenagers initiate calls seeking social support. Teenagers reported greater conflict when parents called to monitor their activities.

"Common sense might indicate that frequent communication between parent and adolescent facilitates a better relationship," Weisskirch writes in his study. "The cellphone, with its portability and relative affordability, may even serve as a catalyst of communication.

"However, frequent communication via cellphone may be perceived by the adolescent as intrusive and bothersome, just like face-to-face communication and yield less disclosure of
information to parents," he adds. "When worried or anxious, a parent may call the adolescent to alleviate these uncomfortable feelings. The pattern of relating via cellphone is likely to affect the relationship between parent and child."

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.