Citation: Livingstone, S., Stoilova, M., and Rahali, M. (2022). Social mediation and support: a guided reading list. CO:RE – Children Online: Research and Evidence.
Useful starting points
Beyens, P. Valkenburg, M. and Piotrowski, J.T. (2019). Developmental trajectories of parental mediation across early and middle childhood. Human Communication Research, 45(2), 226–250.
This article reviews research on parental mediation to theorise how and why it varies across the developmental trajectory of childhood.
Livingstone, S., Ólafsson, K., Helsper, E., Lupiáñez-Villanueva, F., Veltri, G., & Folkvord, F. (2017). Maximizing Opportunities and Minimizing Risks for Children Online: The Role of Digital Skills in Emerging Strategies of Parental Mediation. Journal of Communication, 67(1), 82-105.
The research team conducted a survey of 6,400 parents of 6-14 year olds and found that enabling mediation is associated with increased online opportunities, but also risks. Restrictive mediation is associated with fewer risks, but at the cost of opportunity.
Iqbal, S., Zakar, R. & Fischer, F. (2021). Extended theoretical framework of parental internet mediation: Use of multiple theoretical stances for understanding socio-ecological predictors. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 620838.
This article is useful for its review of the core theorists of parental mediation. The authors subsequently propose an extended framework of socio-ecological predictors concerning parental internet mediation.
Beck-Gernsheim, E. (1998). On the way to a post-familial family from a community of need to elective affinities. Theory, Culture & Society, 15(3-4), 53–70.
Beck-Gernsheim describes the ‘post-familial family’ – painful experiences and the hopes of the family in late modernity in the West, where reflexivity, risk and individualisation have reconfigured the possibilities, pressures and burdens of the family.
Beck, U. (1997). Democratization of the family. Childhood, 4(2), 151–168.
Beck looks at changes in personal and family life – youth as a ‘form and avant garde of one’s own life’ (p. 161). Children have received new rights to a self-determined life, and states serve as advocates of children.
Beck, U. & Beck-Gernsheim, E. (1995). The Normal Chaos of Love. Polity Press.
This book describes important transformations in intimacy and personal life in post-modern societies, and how children take a new role within family life. It explores individualisation, free choice and a greater focus on love.
Blum-Ross, A., and Livingstone, S. (2018) The trouble with ‘screen time’ rules. In Mascheroni, G., Ponte, C., and Jorge, A. (eds.) Digital Parenting: The Challenges for Families in the Digital Age (pp.179-187). Gothenburg: Nordicom.
This chapter develops a critique of the concept of screen time in relation to theories of the democratic family and agentic child in modern mediated settings, and opens up a debate about alternative approaches to digital parenting and parental mediation.
Clark, L.S. (2011). Parental mediation theory for the digital age. Communication Theory, 21(4), 323–343.
This article reviews parental mediation theory, proposing an approach that goes beyond positivistic and linear approaches, accounting for the emotional labour that managing children’s media use causes, as well as the reciprocal asymmetry in the parent–child relationship, going beyond the digital native/immigrant dichotomy.
Dermott, E. & Fowler, T. M. (2020). What is a family and why does it matter?. Social Sciences, 9(5): 2-11.
Argues in favour of a ‘family practice’ theoretical framework as a more ethical way of conceptualising everyday family life because it avoids the creation of privileged perspectives.
Epstein, J.L. (2010). School/family/community partnerships: Caring for the children we share. Phi Delta Kappan, 92(3), 81–96.
This article discusses (although not in the context of children online) six different types of school–family–community partnership models for caring for children. This is highly cited work on the different partnership models between school and homes when caring for children. It would also be helpful to understand these models of involvement when considering how to address challenges towards children’s online safety, privacy and security.
Friedman, A. (2016). Three-year-old photographers: Educational mediation as a basis for visual literacy via digital photography in early childhood. Journal of Media Literacy Education, 8(1), 15–31.
This study responds to an ever-changing digital environment by suggesting that parental mediation theory be redefined. Friedman brings into discussion the fields of media literacy and parental mediation.
Giddens, A. (1984). The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration. Polity Press, in association with Basil Blackwell.
Giddens’ wide-ranging and influential sociological theory introduces the concepts of structure and agency, and their dynamic interdependencies (theorised as ‘structuration’). Albeit without a direct focus on childhood, it is insightful for its understanding the relationships between social institutions and people’s (including children's) agency in determining their daily lives and life outcomes.
Gittlins, D. (1993). The Family in Question: Changing Households and Familiar Ideologies. Macmillan.
With rising illegitimacy and the moral panic over child sexual abuse, Gittlins describes the family as more of a political issue than ever. The book discusses if it is ‘the family’ that is in crisis, or the subject of family ideology.
Goodman, I.R. (1983). Television’s role in family interaction: A family systems perspective. Journal of Family Issues, 4(2), 405–424.
This article is a still-insightful account of the psychodynamics of family systems, to explain the processes of meaning-making, identity, relationships and power within the family and within the home.
Hobson, B. (ed.) (2002). Making Men into Fathers: Men, Masculinities and the Social Politics of Fatherhood. Cambridge University Press.
Hobson discusses cross-country differences of welfare regimes, the cash and care facets of fatherhood, child support and custody, parental leave and masculinities. He theorises fatherhood (as ideology), conditions for fathering (as practice) and experiences of fathers (as individuals).
Hoover, S., Clark, L.S. & Alters, D. (2004). Media, Home and Family. Routledge.
The book presents the process of developing a theory of media, home and family based on constructivist methods, followed by a characterisation of the US context and five case studies.
James, A. (ed.) (2013). Socialising Children. Palgrave Macmillan.
From the perspective of the new sociology of childhood, James offers a socio-cultural account of childhood socialisation that focuses on culture, power and inequality in family relations and outcomes.
Jensen, A.-M. (2011). Pluralization of Family Forms. In J. Qvortrup, W.A. Corsaro & M.-S. Honig (eds.) The Palgrave Handbook of Childhood Studies (pp. 140–155). Palgrave Macmillan.
Jensen outlines a host of new family forms, as opposed to the married child-bearing couple, and how this affects children. Children (and marriage) no longer bring social prestige, hence they are postponed.
Kalmus, V. (2012). Making Sense of the Social Mediation of Children’s Internet Use: Perspectives for Interdisciplinary and Cross-Cultural Research. In C.W. Wijnen, S. Trültzsch & C. Ortner (eds.) Medienwelten im Wandel: Kommunikationswissenschaftliche Positionen, Perspektiven und Konsequenzen. Festschrift für Ingrid Paus-Hasebrink (pp. 137−149). Springer.
This theoretically oriented chapter conceptualises social mediation by suggesting a typology of the roles of the agents of socialisation as mediators. It then outlines some methodological considerations, and sketches possible perspectives for further interdisciplinary research.
Kalmus, V. & Roosalu, T. (2012). Institutional Filters on Children’s Internet Use: An Additional Explanation of Cross-National Differences in Parental Mediation. In M. Walrave, W. Heirman, S. Mels, C. Timmerman & H. Vandebosch (eds.) e-Youth: Balancing between Opportunities and Risks (pp. 235–250). Peter Lang.
This analysis highlights the importance of macro-level factors (such as welfare regimes and gender ideologies) in explaining cross-cultural differences in parental mediation.
Lauricella, A.R., Cingel, D.P., Beaudoin-Ryan, L., Robb, M.B., Saphir, M. & Wartella, E.A. (2016). The Common Sense Census: Plugged-in Parents of Tweens and Teens. Common Sense Media.
This contribution is based on focus groups and nationally representative survey data, and differentiates between parental mediation, parental monitoring and parental management, reporting on findings focusing on these three areas of social mediation.
Lee, E., Bristow, J., Faircloth, C. & Macvarish, J. (2014). Parenting Culture Studies. Palgrave Macmillan.
This edited volume offers a contemporary account from a critical social science perspective of ‘parenting’ and ‘parenting culture’. While attentive to empirical research and the voices of parents, the contributors’ critical analysis recognises that parenting is subject to powerful moral and media panics, generating parenting and public anxiety, and compounding the problems that parents face in their daily lives.
Lim, S.S. (2018). Transcendent Parenting in Digitally Connected Families: When the Technological Meets the Social. In G. Mascheroni, C. Ponte & A. Jorge (eds) Digital Parenting: The Challenges for Families in the Digital Age (pp 31−39). Nordicom.
Lim talks about transcendent parenting as a new type of parenting. A transcendent parent is someone who is always online, who remains connected to his/her child even when apart. This trend is supported by various digital tools the parents can utilise in their parenting routines (for example, location-tracking apps and online parenting groups).
Livingstone, S. & Bober, M. (2013). Regulating the Internet at Home: Contrasting the Perspectives of Children and Parents. In D. Buckingham & R. Willett (eds) Digital Generations (pp. 105–126). Routledge.
This chapter discusses ‘parental strategies of domestic regulation’ of children’s internet access from the results of the UK Children Go Online project. It presents parental perspectives towards regulating, and monitoring, children’s internet use.
Livingstone, S. & Helsper. E. (2008). Parental mediation of children’s Internet use. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 52, 581-599.
Modecki, K., Goldberg, R., Wisniewski, P., & Orben, A. (2022). What Is Digital Parenting? A Systematic Review of Past Measurement and Blueprint for the Future. Perspectives on Psychological Science, Perspectives on psychological science, 2022.
In an effort to understand how digital parenting is measured, this study provides a systematic review of the literature, including both quantitative and qualitative studies.
Mascheroni, G., Ponte, C. & Jorge, A. (2018). Introduction. In G. Mascheroni, C. Ponte & A. Jorge (eds) Digital Parenting: The Challenges for Families in the Digital Age (pp. 9–16). Nordicom.
This chapter introduces the concept of digital parenting, which refers to various relationships the parents have with digital technologies in the context of child rearing. On the one hand, the idea involves various practices the parents have adopted to mediate their children’s media use, and on the other, it refers to the ways the parents themselves use digital technologies in their daily lives and in being a parent.
Mendoza, K. (2013). Surveying parental mediation: Connections, challenges and questions for media literacy. Journal of Media Literacy Education, 1(1), 28–41.
This is another article that provides an overview of parental mediation theory and practice, in order to present new questions for the field of media literacy.
Meyer, I. H. (2003). Prejudice, social stress, and mental health in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations/ Conceptual issues and research evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 5, 674- 697.
Minority stress theory posits that three factors contribute to the excess of mental and physical health disparities amongst minority individuals. Firstly, external stressors such as prejudice, lack of institutional protection and recognition leads to alertness and distress. Secondly, these objective stressors lead to expectations of discrimination and heightened alertness. Thirdly, minority individuals internalise the prejudices and direct negative attitudes towards themselves. Minority stress theory can be useful to promote a public environment where people are able to integrate an awareness of belonging to a minority position with other aspects of their life.
Morgan, D. (1999). Risk and Family Practices: Accounting for Change and Fluidity in Family Life. In E. Silva & C. Smart (eds) The New Family (pp. 13–30). SAGE Publications.
This chapter looks at changes in family life – family as based on practices and something that can be chosen rather than granted. It talks about ‘doing family’ as a way of describing diversity within family forms.
Nichols, S., & Selim, N. (2022). Digitally Mediated Parenting: A Review of the Literature. Societies (Basel, Switzerland), 12(2), 60.
This study is a literature review of empirical studies of digital parenting. The findings suggest that restrictive mediation is the most commonly reported approach to managing children’s activities online.
Nikken, P. & Schols, M. (2015). How and why parents guide the media use of young children. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24, 3423-3435.
This empirical study explores whether children’s media skills and activities predicted parental mediation practices. Findings show that parents applied co-use, supervision, active and restrictive mediation and monitoring. Skills and media activities had a stronger correlation with mediation style, whereas age did not.
Pinkerton, J. and Dolan, P. (2007). Family support, social capital, resilience and adolescent coping. Child & Family Social Work, 12: 219-228.
Suggests a conceptual model that draws on social support theory and the notions of “social capital” and “resilience” in a way that can link formal family support interventions to adolescent coping.
Schofield Clark, L. & Brites, M.J. (2018). Differing Parental Approaches to Cultivating Youth Citizenship. In G. Mascheroni, C. Ponte & A. Jorge (eds) Digital Parenting: The Challenges for Families in the Digital Age (pp. 81–89). Nordicom.
In this chapter, the authors reflect on how parents and their children negotiate their digital responsibilities and rights during the adolescent years in light of their expectations regarding agentive involvement in life decision-making. It highlights the stories of families who embrace a commitment to social justice, and who therefore view the digital activities of their children and youth as a question of whether or not these activities support the family’s broader commitments to social justice and active civic engagement. The authors argue that young people may come to view practices of citizenship as an extension of their online and offline experience of agency within their home contexts.
Siibak, A. (2019). Digital Parenting and the Datafied Child. In T. Burns & F. Gottschalk (eds) Educating 21st Century Children: Emotional Well-Being in the Digital Age (pp. 103–118). OECD Publishing.
Siibak considers ‘intimate dataveillance’, a term that refers to the use of tracking apps and devices. As there are so many new risks children may face in their online and offline encounters, parents have increasingly started to make use of various technological devices, mobile applications or parental controls (for example, content filtering software, internet blockers and add-on monitoring software) for monitoring children’s whereabouts, both in the online and offline worlds.
Stephen, C., Stevenson, O. & Adey, C. (2013). Young children engaging with technologies at home: The influence of family context. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 11, 149–164.
The authors examine dimensions of the home environment that influence a child’s digital experience; influencing dimensions of the home environment (especially parental attitudes) may be the way towards healthier experience and use of digital devices.
Valkenburg, P.M., Krcmar, M., Peters , L.P., & Marseille, N.M., (1999). Developing a scale to assess three styles of television mediation: “Instructive mediation,” “restrictive mediation,” and “social coviewing”. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 43, 52-66.
In this study, parental mediation for televised activities was explored, with three styles emerging from analysis: restrictive, instructive and social coviewing.
Van den Bulck, J., Custers, K., & Nelissen, S. (2016). The child-effect in the new media environment: challenges and opportunities for communication research. Journal of Children and Media, 10(1), 30-38.
Adopting socialization theory which generally focuses on how children internalise rules and norms from their parents and other significant adults, the authors argue that socialisation should be seen as a bidirectional where children influence their parents (referred to as the “child-effect”). The paper offers a theoretical overview of this “child-effect hypothesis”.
Wartella, E.A. & Jennings, N. (2000). Children and computers: New technology – old concerns. The Future of Children, 10(2), 31-43.
This article reports on historical trends in social concerns about the disruptive effects of media use and how society and policy/regulations have always put particular emphasis on parents, leaving them with the burden of socialising and educating their children to a socially acceptable use of technology.
Wells, K. (2015). Childhood in a Global Perspective (2nd ed.). Polity Press.
Children’s lives throughout the world are the focus of this book. Wells shows how the notion of childhood is being radically reshaped, in part as a consequence of globalisation. The book tackles issues such as children’s rights, the family, children and war, child labour, migration, trafficking, the role of play, and young people’s activism around the globe.
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Social support - a guided reading list with key texts
The socialising agents that support and mediate children’s digital experiences and outcomes can be theorised in multiple ways. Most research focuses on the role of parents and the family, with theories of parental mediation commonly drawn on in positioning the child, and their digital activities, in an interpersonal context. However, the nature and role of the family, particularly parents, can be contentious, and these can be debated in terms of their description, normative expectations (and critiques thereof) and their historical and cultural specificities and shaping.
Receiving less attention, but also important, are efforts to theorise the importance of peer and community mediation for children’s digital engagement. A distinct and sizeable research literature addresses the role of school, although this is little represented here.