The “Mobile Phone Parenting” Phenomenon

The issue of left behind children (LBC) is not restricted to the 61 million in China.  Millions of LBC reside all around the world. Approximately 9 million, or 27% of the nation’s youth, are LBC living in the Philippines.

“Mobile phone parenting: Reconfiguring relationships between Filipina migrant mothers and their left-behind children”, an article by Mirca Madianou and Daniel Miller, explains the issue of LBC in the Philippians and how technology has changed the dynamic of families with LBC.

This problem arose in the 1970’s with the Middle Eastern oil boom, which demanded an influx of foreign workers. This intensified Filipino migration, and soon enough, a third of the Middle Eastern oil labor force was Filipino. Not only that, but Filipina women started to become recognized for their domestic and childcare work abroad. Since then, the Philippines has been known for being a major source of migrant workers.

Today, the Philippines has an annual migration of over one million people with a tenth of their population working abroad. Many of these workers are men and women who are already parents, but leave their children in the homeland.

Due to this major migration, the Philippines has been described as the texting capital of the world and helped coin a phenomenon called “mobile phone parenting.” Although the use of phone cards for familial communication is far superior to no communication, it does come with drawbacks. First, most phone conversations are restricted to 10 minutes because of phone card limitations. Second, it is significantly cheaper for parents abroad to call the Philippines, while international calling from the Philippines is more expensive. Consequently, a parent can call their children whenever they feel the need, but their children cannot afford to do the same.

Mobile phone parenting is commonly viewed in a negative light from the perspective of the children. Since phone conversations only last up to 10 minutes, there is only time to talk about practical things, such as health, schooling, and finances. “You don’t really have time to be closer,” one Filipino LBC stated.

Global Children’s Vision seeks to revolutionize this issue and practically provide a solution—open communication within families.

Read the full article here: Madinou and Miller 2011

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