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Can Social Networking Be Used to Promote Engagement in Child Maltreatment Prevention Programs? Two Pilot Studies

  • Author(s): Edwards-Gaura, Anna
  • Whitaker, Daniel
  • Self-Brown, Shannon
  • et al.
Abstract

Introduction: Child maltreatment is one of the United States’ most significant public health problems.In efforts to prevent maltreatment experts recommend use of Behavioral Parent Training Programs(BPTs), which focus on teaching skills that will replace and prevent maltreating behavior. While there isresearch to support the effectiveness of BPTs in maltreatment prevention, the reach of such programsis still limited by several barriers, including poor retention of families in services. Recently, newtechnologies have emerged that offer innovative opportunities to improve family engagement. Thesetechnologies include smartphones and social networking; however, very little is known about thepotential of these to aid in maltreatment prevention. The primary goal of this study was to conduct 2pilot exploratory projects.

Methods: The first project administered a survey to parents and providers to gather data about at-riskparents’ use of smartphones and online social networking technologies. The second project tested asocial networking-enhanced brief parenting program with 3 intervention participants and evaluatedparental responses.

Results: Seventy-five percent of parents surveyed reported owning a computer that worked. Eightyninepercent of parents reported that they had reliable Internet access at home, and 67% said theyused the Internet daily. Three parents participated in the intervention with all reporting improvement inparent-child interaction skills and a positive experience participating in the social networking-enhancedSafeCare components.

Conclusion: In general, findings suggest that smartphones, social networking, and Facebook, inparticular, are now being used by individuals who show risk factors formaltreatment. Further, themajorityof parents surveyed in this study said that they like Facebook, and all parents surveyed said that they useFacebook and have a Facebook account. As well, all saw it as a potentially beneficial supplement forfuture parents enrolling in parenting programs. [West J Emerg Med. 2014;15(5):575–581.]

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