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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Parenthood, information and support on the internet. A literature review of research on parents and professionals online

Lars Plantin1 and Kristian Daneback2*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Social Work, Faculty of Health and Society, Malmö University, Sweden

2 Department of Social Work, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

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Citation and License

BMC Family Practice 2009, 10:34  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-10-34

Published: 18 May 2009

Abstract

Background

The aim of this article was to address questions on how parents use the internet to find information and support regarding children, health and family life. Another aim was to find out how professionals use the internet to provide support and information to parents. This was done by a literature review.

Methods

Articles were searched for in five databases with a search strategy called "building block" approach.

Results

The review showed that the majority of today's parents search for both information and social support on the internet. However, there are considerable differences due to gender, age and socio-economic differences. First time middle class mothers aged 30–35 are most active in looking up health and parent information on the internet. In the same time, several studies report diminishing class differences on parent web sites. An important reason to the increasing number of parents who turn to the internet for information and interaction has shown to be the weakened support many of today's parents experience from their own parents, relatives and friends. Professionals have recognized the parents' great interest for going online and offer both information and support on the net.

Conclusion

Many benefits are reported, for example the possibility to reach out to a wider audience and to increase access to organisations without an increase in costs. Other benefits include the possibility for parents to remain anonymous in their contacts with professionals and that parents' perceived need for information can be effectively met around the clock. Interventions for wider groups of parents, such as parent training on the net, are still very rare and more research is needed to evaluate different types of interventions on the net. However, most studies were empirical and lacked theoretical frameworks which leave questions on how we can more fully understand this phenomenon unanswered.