Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


College of Nursing

First Advisor

Robin Dawson Estrada

Second Advisor

DeAnne K. Hilfinger Messias


Mobile technologies (e.g., smartphones and associated social media accessed through downloadable mobile applications) have changed the social landscape of adolescent communication. Intertwined with this communication are risks, many of which are sexual. Evidence suggests online risks associated with mobile technology use can be mitigated by (a) parental awareness of online activities; (b) protective practices regarding content and contacts; and (c) mediation aimed at regulating access and use. Prior research on mobile technology use and associated risks in adolescent children focused on exposure to pornography, sexting, online victimization, and associated negative health outcomes. Parental awareness, protective practices, and mediation have also been studied. However, there is limited research that examines parenting practices in the context of early adolescence (ages 11 to 14 years) and from a parental perspective. This exploratory descriptive study, conducted in two phases, utilized a concurrent, mixed method design to address three specific aims. Phase I (a) examined parents’ level of awareness of early adolescent engagement in online behaviors and sexual risks via diverse technologies, and (b) explored parental protective practices aimed at mitigating online risks via smartphones, social media, and mobile applications among early adolescents ages 11 to 14 years; Fifteen English-speaking parents in North and South Carolina participated in interviews and 102 English-speaking parents in North and South Carolina completed online or paper-based surveys. In Phase II, select Phase I participants engaged in follow-up in-depth interviews designed to identify strategies that vi nursing professionals could use to counsel parents in addressing salient concerns identified in Phase I. Data analysis included (a) thematic analysis of transcribed interview data, and (b) descriptive analysis of surveys via REDCap statistical tools and IBM SPSS Statistics Version 22. Findings highlighted parental perceptions of online risks (i.e. pornography and contact with strangers) and mediation practices (e.g. talking about online risks and restricting content and access) associated with early adolescent smartphone and social media use and revealed that parents wanted more support from nurses. Future research should focus on developing parental educational programs and screening tools for nurses to address mobile technology use and associated risks, both of which may ultimately be an important factor in better health outcomes in early adolescent children.


© 2018, Kendra Allison

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Nursing Commons