Introduction

Healthy communication between parents and children can help a child’s development, mental health, and wellbeing. Technology can perform an important role empowering healthy communication between parents and children. Persistent obstacles in communication can limit parent’s ability to recognize and face the needs of children. Over time, this can contribute to children’s problems with emotion regulation, self-efficacy, self-esteem and interpersonal skills. Long term these difficulties are linked to problems with poor educational attainment, mental health, employment difficulties, relationship difficulties and poor physical health. The control of these issues costs the UK millions of pounds each year. Technology can play a notable role in facilitating healthy communication between parents and children. Smartphones can be used for example to enhance a parent’s availability while out-with physical proximity and also an immediate connection with their child. They can also be used to track mood and provide parents with feedback that allows them to be more sympathetic to their child’s needs. Smartphones also have the functionality to operate information that parents can access to improve their knowledge and skills in related areas. There are many applications on the market that offer functionality like track mood, sleep, or fitness apps, but there is an absence of specific applications that help to improve communication between parents and children using same functionality. The aim of this project is to design, build and evaluate a mobile smartphone app (android) which supports healthy communication between parents and children.

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Research Questions

More specifically, the following research questions need to be addressed:

What is the definition of “Healthy communication” between parents and children and what are some ways to improve communication?
What methods/ functionality and technologies can be implemented in a mobile application to increase a parent’s availability while out-with physical proximity and also prompt connection with their to support healthy communication and overcome Chronic difficulties
What other similar apps are available on the market

Literature review

Communication is one key for peaceful parent-teenager relationships. Healthy communication between parents and children can support a child’s development, mental health, and wellbeing. ‘Healthy communication’ refers to a process in which the parent is available, attuned and attentive to a child’s needs. Attachment theory (Bowlby, 1969) suggests that this process produces the building blocks for developing security in children, enabling them to explore and increase their sense of competence and autonomy in the wider world. Family Times journal which is published by New Mexico State University’s Family and Consumer Sciences Department Defines Communication as sharing of ideas, thoughts, and feelings among people. Communication doesn’t have to include words and can be something like a smile or a frown. Moreover, silence can be a way of communication. Parents by communicating with children, they show that they are interested in their lives and that they are important to them. Communication is essential so that family members respect each other’s needs and wants. Without it, they will not know what each other thinks or feels, which can make family life more difficult. Bowlby claims that during the early years, while the child obtains the capacity for self-regulation, the mother is a child’s ego and superego: It is not extraordinary that during infancy and early childhood these functions are either not operating at all or are doing so most imperfectly. During this phase of life, the child is therefore dependent on his mother performing them for him. She orients him in space and time, provides his environment, permits the satisfaction of some impulses, and restricts others. She is his ego and his super-ego. Gradually he learns these arts himself, and as he does, the skilled parent transfers the roles to him. This is a slow, complex and continuous process, beginning when he first learns to walk and feed himself, and not ending completely until maturity is reached. Ego and super-ego development are therefore completely hound up with the child’s primary human relationships. (Bowlby, 1951, p. 53).A Bowlby’s major conclusion, grounded in the available empirical evidence, was that to grow up mentally healthy, “the infant and young child should experience a warm, intimate, and continuous relationship with his mother (or permanent mother substitute) in which both find satisfaction and enjoyment” (Bowlby, 1951, p. 13).

Effective communication is not just speaking but also listening. By listening well to other people in your family, you support them to speak about what’s most significant in their lives. It’s easy to get careless about listening, especially in families. We take it for given that we know what the other person means or acts to listen while doing something else. Listening needs attention. Put alongside anything you’re doing to show you’re ready to listen. Listening demands openness and respect. Feedback encourages the listener to know if they’ve really understood what was said. Listening is difficult when strong emotions are present. Just being with a family member who is undergoing a tough time lets them know you care. Sometimes a soft touch or hug shows support when you don’t know what to say.

Teenagers are confronted with life-changing choices and the results almost every day. The middle school and high school years are the most difficult for teens because they are neither children nor adults. Their bodies are quickly changing, and they face huge emotional swings as well. Many teens are seeking answers to difficult questions such as how they feel about themselves and what they’ll do with their lives. There are many Important issues for teenagers like the importance for parents to talk with them, to pay attention to them before they get into trouble, to talk about peer pressure, drugs, and alcohol, to help them learn their body and emotional changes, to get support at home, school and in activities and the most important to be treated with respect and to be fair to them. (Communication is the key to healthy family relationships, 2012). But how technology and more specifically mobile applications can be used to enable healthy communication between parents and children? Awareness systems are defined as “computer mediated communication systems that aim to support connected parties to maintain a peripheral awareness of the activities of and status of their communication partners” (Markopoulos et al., 2005). The notion of awareness system has various variations such as affective awareness, which provides “a general sense of being close to one’s family and friends” (Liechti, 2000); peripheral awareness, awareness of the presence and activity of others (Benford & Bowers, 1994);

The rise in the use of cell phones in addition to calling and texting can be considered to be as an effect of the modern structural- functional changes in the cell phones; such as internet availability, advanced storage facility, etc. Cell phones help in keeping in touch parents and children when they are not together, while the main way of communication through cell phones is “text messaging”.It has been found that teenagers send and receive more messages than any other age group. They support that texting helps them in relating not only to their parents but also with their while family and friends. “Voice calls” are the primary function of “cell phones” and it is essentially used by teens to converse with their parents. The main reason behind letting the children own cell phones is to “monitor” them when they are not in each other premises (Lenhart, et al. 2010).

Many parents find it challenging to communicate with their childrenA when they are apart. Situations such as divorce or lengthened absences for work or illness make having a healthy parent-child relationship an even bigger hurdle. The impact of separation can be destructive to children, and leave parents feeling weak. Absences are especially difficult during the school year, when children need help with their homework and want their parents to be there for school activities and sports. Regardless of why a parent is away, children still need to know that their parent loves them. Parents will unquestionably feel their own difficulties because of separation from their children. At this point, however, it’s important to put the kids

First. Especially during times of separation, parents must concentrate on providing their children with a nurturing environment. (Communication is the key to healthy family relationships, 2012)

Technology can play a role in enabling healthy communication between parents and children. Smartphones can be used for example: To increase a parent’s availability while out-with physical proximity and also the prompt connection with their child. They can also be used to track mood and provide parents with feedback that allows them to be more responsive to their child’s needs. Smartphones also provide the functionality to hold information that parents can access to increase their knowledge and skills in relevant areas. An application that could permit to a parent to Call them up and ask how their day went, or express their love for them, aA mail a postcard encourage the children to talk to parents about their feelings. The mobile application can provide functionality which will make the children feel secure that they will continue to be loved and protected even though you aren’t there with them.

Many methods and technologies can be used to increase a parent’s availability while out-with physical proximity and also prompt connection with their child. There are many kinds of functionalities that can be implemented in a mobile application to support healthy communication and overcome chronic difficulties. Technology like monitoring, logs, Geolocation, contextual triggers, messaging, can provide the tools for application developers to createA applications like tracking energy levels and mood ( log moods daily), Track sleep, Track water and food intake, allow users to send messages requesting help (child)/asking if help is needed (parent), view symptoms over time (daily, weekly, and monthly) and provide visualizations that are useful to the individual and their parents/caregivers, allow users to access different areas of information (e.g. info on mood, types of ‘help’, etc), or send messages that enable them to choose a pre-defined option of what type of help is needed. (e.g. a hug. )There are many available applications on the market that have the characteristics and functionality that described. Most of them are monitoring applications of teenagers that aim to monitor children for safety issues, like monitoring the exact location of the child. An example of an android application with this kind of functional isA MM Guardian Parental Control which control phone or app usage, monitor text messages and calls, restrict the types of websites that a child may view, or simply keep track of where the child is.

Objectives

The long term goal of the research is Design, build and evaluate a mobile smartphone app (android) which supports healthy communication between parents and children.
Understand the role of technology in parent’s children relationship and discover new ways to improve “Healthy communication” between parents and children. A study will conducted in order to discover ways to improve healthy communication.
Improve and learn programming in an Android environment, investigating the HCI (usability and user experience) of the app and develop it iteratively with users in mind.