The influence of parental factors on children's receptiveness towards mobile phone location disclosure services
First Monday

The influence of parental factors on children's receptiveness towards mobile phone location disclosure services by Hee Jhee Jiow and Julian Lin

A key ingredient of successful parenting is parental knowledge of their children’s whereabouts. The availability of, and easy access to, modern technology such as mobile phone location disclosure (MPLD) services has made it even easier for parents to locate their children by tracking their whereabouts. This study explored parental factors and children’s receptiveness towards MPLD services and found that children’s trust in their parents, optimal parental bonding, monitoring and solicitation, and children’s general disclosure patterns are positively correlated to children’s receptiveness towards MPLD, but parental invasiveness was found to be negatively correlated. The study found that in predicting children’s MPLD attitudes: (1) general disclosure habit of children is the best predictor; and, (2) children’s perception of parental factors are better indicators than parents’ perception.


Literature review
Procedure and participants




Parents play an important role in a child’s upbringing (Holden, 2009). Literature on parenting roles and responsibilities agree that parental knowledge of children’s whereabouts is an important ingredient of successful parenting (Baumrind, 1971; Holden, 2009; Huver, et al., 2010). It is believed that with this knowledge and information, parents will be able to protect their children from high–risk behavioural pursuits such as delinquency and sexual activities (Borawski, et al., 2003; Smetana, 2011). However, adolescents (defined in this study as those between the ages of 12 and 16) are likely to find this parental requirement unacceptable and may challenge their parents (Smetana, 2011). Firstly, often adolescence is the life stage at which children start to push their privacy boundaries (Hawk, et al., 2008; Ledbetter, et al., 2010) as they balance the need for individuation from parents (Hawk, et al., 2008). Secondly, this is the age where children spend less time with their parents, spend more time away from home and have more opportunities and choices for information management (Smetana, 2011; Smetana, et al., 2006). Thirdly, “experimentation with risky behaviours also increases during adolescence” [1]. Therefore, experts have called for parents to monitor their child’s whereabouts indirectly and at a distance (Smetana, 2011).

Parents have been known to use communication technologies such as mobile phones to exert some control over their children’s boundaries and gain parental knowledge (Ledbetter, et al., 2010). In the past, this typically involved contacting their children to solicit information about their activities and whereabouts. However, recent advancements in mobile phone technology have enabled parents to locate their child without having to make an actual call (Barreras and Mathur, 2007). Mobile Phone Location Disclosure (MPLD) technology was developed out of a need for emergency services to identify the location of the caller involved in emergency (Gow, 2005). However, mobile phone service providers have taken the technology further to provide family supervision applications (Barreras and Mathur, 2007), with claims that it may deter a child’s bad behaviour by providing some sense of the parent’s “psychological presence” [2]. This technology has allowed “remote parenting” to take place [3]. Although the technology is available to continuously track a mobile phone to its exact global coordinates, associated privacy issues have played a huge role in differentiating between the type of location information to be captured, the consent required, as well as the receiver of the location information (Barreras and Mathur, 2007; Gow, 2005). These range of MPLD options allow children and parents to negotiate ownership and control of location information (Hawk, et al., 2008; Petronio, 1994; 2010). Yet, little is known about children’s responses to parents’ deliberate efforts in seeking information about their location. This study seeks to explore the relationship between parental factors and children’s receptiveness towards MPLD.

Singapore has a comparative advantage over other places of study because of the relatively high mobile phone penetration rate, which is currently 143.9 percent (Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, 2011), with an estimated 66 percent [4] of children in that age group having access to a mobile phone. At the time of writing in March 2012, two out of the three major mobile phone services providers in Singapore, SingTel and StarHub, offer the location disclosure service as an add–on service (SingTel, 2011; StarHub, 2011b; Suhaimi, 2008). Both service providers claim that the location service information is accurate to within a certain range and provides various options for the child to consent to being tracked (SingTel, 2011; StarHub, 2011b). Primarily, this service is meant for location disclosure on a permanent basis (Suhaimi, 2008), although it also provides the option of being located on a situational basis, where consent is required (SingTel, 2011; StarHub, 2011b). Even if someone consents to being located permanently, she is free to withdraw consent anytime (SingTel, 2011; StarHub, 2011b). SingTel has termed its location services “Locator” and StarHub has termed its version “My Locator” (SingTel, 2011; StarHub, 2011b).

The next section reviews the literature on the influences of parental factors on the children’s receptiveness towards MPLD.



Literature review

A review of the literature shows scant research on MPLD. Typically, “disclosure” or “tracking” are terms used to denote the affordance of the technology or service (Gow, 2005; Marmasse and Schmandt, 2003; StarHub, 2011a). This technology is not new, as it has been used as a “virtual leash” for very young children (Marmasse and Schmandt, 2003, p. 1), enabling parents to create a secure zone for their children to roam. This study focused on the child’s action of releasing information, and therefore “disclosure” is a more appropriate term than “tracking”. The literature distinguished between two forms of “disclosure”: child–initiated (self–disclosure) or parent–initiated (through parental prompting or rules), claiming that the child’s willingness to self–disclose was an indicator found in better quality parent–child relationships (Hawk, et al., 2008; Smetana, et al., 2006; Stattin and Kerr, 2000). This study defined disclosure as a general information management process of release, whether child– or parent– initiated, as there have been few studies on MPLD, and therefore there is no theoretical motivation to expect any substantial findings when distinguished (Petronio, 2010; Smetana, et al., 2006). Recent research has defined disclosure of information in regard to activities, rather than the disclosure of personal feelings (Smetana, et al., 2006). This study will do likewise.

Parental literature on disclosure suggests that a child would willingly disclose only certain types of information, such as moral, conventional and prudential issues, without parental prompting (Smetana, 2011; Smetana, et al., 2006). This willingness to disclose can be captured by a combination of factors, including the child’s perception of her obligation to disclose and the parents’ authority to obtain that information (Smetana, et al., 2006). There is literature that suggests the right to disclose belongs to the owner(s) or co–owner(s) of the information (Petronio, 2010). However, ownership is often “perceptual” [5], and could give rise to conflict between the perceived owners of the information. Paralleled with the issue of ownership is the issue of control. “Ownership signifies that individuals assume the right to control the information; however, sometimes the level of control varies” [6]. Therefore, disclosure will vary with the extent of perceived ownership of information, and the level of control imposed.

This study sought to capture variations in the parent–child perceptions on the ownership of information and the level of control as separate issues: parental authority to obtain that information, and whether the child has an obligation to disclose. It would be intuitive to expect, especially in this study, that “the more parents are seen as having the legitimate authority to regulate an issue, the more the adolescent see themselves as obligated to tell their parents about it” [7]. Other types of information, such as multifaceted and personal issues, would be deemed as private, and therefore undisclosed (Smetana, 2011; Smetana, et al., 2006). It is common to find that children will disclose less than what parents expect (Smetana, et al., 2006). A child’s measure of willing disclosure generally “reflects the climate of parent–child relationship” [8]: the more willing the disclosure, the better the climate. It is reasonable to assume that a child’s positive attitude towards disclosure as a whole will likely reflect good parent–child relationship that, in turn, will result in positive disclosure attitudes for each individual activity, like MPLD. However, certain parent–child factors have been known to influence disclosure specifically.

First, researchers have found that children’s trust in their parents is positively associated with the child’s level of disclosure (Borawski, et al., 2003; Smetana, 2011; Smetana, et al., 2006). The literature suggests that a close trusting relational parent–child climate, in general, is normally associated with more disclosure to the parents, and does not necessarily refer to trust in the child in a specific behaviour (Smetana, 2011). More importantly, trust was found to be crucial in child disclosure on personal matters, even when the child was not obligated to disclose (Smetana, 2011).

Second, optimal parental bonding has also been known to positively affect a child’s disclosure (Parker, et al., 1979; Smetana, 2011). Although the authors acknowledged that the concept of a “bond” lacked a “satisfactory definition”, it was generally accepted [9]. Parental bonding is conceptualized as the child’s perception on the parents’ level of care and overprotection (Cavedo and Parker, 1994; Klimidis, et al., 1992; Parker, et al., 1979; Wilhelm, et al., 2005). The care dimension is typically defined by “positive evaluation, sharing, expression of affection, emotional support” [10] which is opposite to ”neglect and rejection“ [11]. The overprotection dimension is typically defined by “overprotection, intrusion, excessive contact, infantilization and prevention of independent behaviour” [12] which is opposite to “independence and autonomy” [13]. Parker, et al. [14] stated that a combination of high care and low overprotection would be “conceptualized as optimal bonding”; low care and low overprotection as “absent or weak bonding”; high care and high overprotection as “affectionate constraint”; and low care and high overprotection as “affectionless control”. This was consistent with Smetana, et al.’s (2006) input that excessive control (overprotection) has negative effect on disclosure. It was also consistent with literature asserting that trust and care are better predictors of child disclosure (Smetana, 2011; Smetana, et al., 2006). Given that existing communication technologies make it possible for parents to solicit information on their children’s exact location, in asking their children, MPLD may be viewed, by the children, as an overprotective measure. Therefore, this study chose to adopt the parental bonding measure over other parenting concepts.

Third, studies have shown that children’s perception of privacy invasion by parents has a negative effect on disclosure (Hawk, et al., 2008; Ledbetter, et al., 2010; Parker, et al., 1979). Although privacy definitions are varied, privacy has been consistently referred to as the management of ownership and access to information (Hawk, et al., 2008; Petronio, 2010). Literature has shown that children tend to regard parental requests for information as an invasion of their privacy, which are typically countered with “confrontational” and “evasive” defenses [15] by the child, resulting in less willingness to disclose (Smetana, 2011).

Fourth, studies have shown that children may perceive parental monitoring and parental solicitation negatively, which may then negatively affect the child’s disclosure patterns (Hawk, et al., 2008; Petronio, 1994). Parental monitoring, parental solicitation and child–initiated disclosure are three modes of parental knowledge acquisition (Stattin and Kerr, 2000). Parental monitoring refers to the parent-initiated rules and restrictions imposed on the “child’s activities and associations” [16]. Parental knowledge is passively acquired, and is the knowledge that the child is not engaged in questionable behaviours (Hawk, et al., 2008; Smetana, 2011; Stattin and Kerr, 2000). These rules may also explicitly require the child to inform their parents about the child’s activities before performing it (Hawk, et al., 2008), resulting in disclosure by the child. Parental solicitation refers to the parent–initiated moments of conversations with the child or their friends so as to acquire parental knowledge (Hawk, et al., 2008; Smetana, 2011; Stattin and Kerr, 2000).




This research seeks to explore the relationship between MPLD attitudes and various parental factors by advancing the following seven hypotheses:

  • [H1] A child’s trust in his/her parent will be positively correlated to the child’s MPLD attitudes.

  • [H2] A child’s perception of privacy invasion by the parent will be negatively correlated to the child’s MPLD attitudes.

  • [H3] A child’s perception of optimal parental bonding (high care, low overprotection) will be positively correlated to child’s MPLD attitudes.

  • [H4] A child’s perception parental monitoring will be negatively correlated to child’s MPLD attitudes.

  • [H5] A child’s perception parental solicitation will be negatively correlated to child’s MPLD attitudes.

  • [H6] A child’s disclosure patterns in general will be positively correlated to child’s MPLD attitudes.

Previous studies have been consistent in gathering both the child’s and parent’s perception of the variables used (trust, disclosure, information type, obligation to disclose, parental legitimacy, perceived privacy invasion, parental monitoring, parental solicitation) (Hawk, et al., 2008; Smetana, et al., 2006; Stattin and Kerr, 2000). Often, this was done by re–wording the questions (Stattin and Kerr, 2000). Parents’ perception of their right to know and the child’s obligation to disclose are typically greater than the child’s perception (Smetana, et al., 2006). Therefore this study chose to explore the differences in perceptions and attitudes, and hypothesised that:

  • [H7] A child’s perception of parental factors, namely parental monitoring, parental solicitation, trust, privacy invasion and parental bonding, are better predictors of child’s MPLD attitudes, than parental perception of parental factors.




This study captured both the parents’ and children’s age and gender, along with various demographical data. No identifiable data was collected. The following are the other measures used, all on a seven–point Likert scale (see the Appendix for a list of detailed questions used in the online survey of the children).

  • MPLD Attitude — This study operationalised MPLD attitude with seven items: the perception of invasiveness, the parent’s legitimate authority over the information; the child’s obligation to disclose; whether it is a good idea, wise idea, favourable; and, the child’s decision whether to accept or reject, which were adapted from several studies on disclosure (Hawk, et al., 2008; Smetana, et al., 2006). High scores will reflect favourable MPLD attitudes, which means there was more receptivity towards MPLD.

  • Trust — This study attempted to measure trust using the 10–item Trust subscale of the Parent–Peer Attachment Inventory (Armsden and Greenberg, 1987). The trust “items were designed to assess the adolescent’s trust (felt security) that attachment figures understand and respect his/her needs and desires, and perceptions that they are sensitive and responsive to his/her emotional states and helpful with concerns“ [17]. High scores will reflect high levels of trust.

  • Parental Bonding Instrument (PBI) — The PBI is a psychiatric tool consisting of eight items, and has been found to be reliable and valid gauge in adolescent research (Klimidis, et al., 1992). This tool requires the child, as the respondent, to rate their parents, on the two dimensions mentioned based on the perception in the first 16 years of her life (Klimidis, et al., 1992; Wilhelm, et al., 2005). The Care dimension, consisting of four items, is typically defined by “positive evaluation, sharing, expression of affection, emotional support” [18] which is opposite to “neglect and rejection” [19]. The Overprotection dimension, consisting of four items, is typically defined by “overprotection, intrusion, excessive contact, infantilization and prevention of independent behaviour” [20] which is opposite to “independence and autonomy” [21]. Higher scores for parental care and overprotection measures indicated high parental care and less overprotection. This computation would align to give high scores for more optimal parental bonding.

  • Perceived Privacy Invasion — The Intrusiveness sub–scale (nine items) of the Level of Expressed Emotion (LEE) Questionnaire (Cole and Kazarian, 1988; Hale, et al., 2007) was used in this study to measure perceptions of privacy invasion (Hawk, et al., 2008). This measure was chosen over others because it is “less conflated with psychological control techniques” [22]. High scores indicate the perception of high privacy invasion.

  • Parental Knowledge Instrument — Stattin and Kerr’s (2000) Parental Monitoring concept was adopted for this study, which has a total of 25 items, consists of nine items, five items, five items and six items of Parental Knowledge measure, Child Disclosure measure, Parental Solicitation measure and Parental Monitoring (control) measure respectively. However, Smetana, et al.’s (2006) Child Disclosure measure (12 items) will be used, instead of Stattin and Kerr’s (2000) as there are more items, and it serves the purposes of this research. This study restricted its assessment of disclosure to 12 activities that the authors would deem relevant to common everyday activities of the children in that age group. High scores for these measures will indicate high occurrence of it.



Procedure and participants

Parent and child pairs (dyad) were drawn from two secondary schools and invited to participate in the study. Parents, whose children were aged between 12 and 16, were contacted through the principals of the secondary schools at which their children were enrolled. A Letter to parents, Participant Information Sheet and Consent/Assent Forms were distributed to parents of Secondary One to Four students, so as to achieve stratified sampling among the ages. They were invited to participate and asked to complete an online survey. It was in the interest of this study to match the parent and child responses, to ensure that the parent and child did not influence each other’s responses, and not to collect identifiable data. To reconcile these objectives, the following steps were taken. A unique matching code was generated and given to each dyad through the Consent/Assent Form. Upon successful completion of the online surveys for both parent and child, and the return of the signed Consent/Assent Form, and after the data of parent and child were matched, the matching code was then removed from the data, to maintain confidentiality and anonymity, and making the data non–identifiable. Each dyad was given a 4GB thumbdrive as a token of appreciation for participating in the study.

A total of 294 participants of fathers (N=51), mothers (N=96), sons (N=108) and daughters (N=39) were included in the sample, gathered from two schools in Singapore. The average age of the parents = 45.45 years [SD=5.881] and children = 13.77 years [SD=1.092]. Correlational and regression analysis were performed on the data collected. Reliability analysis was done on the concepts and Cronbach’s Alpha (α) was reported in the table below. Due to the small sample size, the missing data was not discarded, but rectified by weighting the concept; the missing value was given the average value of the other variables within the concept.




Table 1 (below) summarises the key findings for H1–H7, and will be used for discussions in this study.


Table 1: Correlational and regression analysis of various measures with the child’s MPLD attitudes (α=.926).
Note: * Correlation is significant at 0.05 level (2–tailed); ** Correlation is significant at 0.01 level (2–tailed).
 Child Response (Pearson’s correlation)Linear Regression computed for Child Responses (H7)Linear Regression computed for Parent Responses (H7)
Perceived Privacy Invasion-.292** (α=.852)b=-.176, p=.044b=-.157, p=.054
Perceived Bonding.469** (α=.779)b=.042, p=.721b=-.014, p=.873
Trust.471** (α=.918)b=.099, p=.361b=.133, p=.122
Parental Monitoring.227** (α=.899)b=.045, p=.576b=.238, p=.006
Parental Solicitation.281** (α=.791)b=-.011, p=.888b=.190, p=.036
Overall Disclosure.580** (α=.922)b=.464**, p=.000b=.178, p=.054
Disclosure MPLD with Multifaceted Issuesα=.916Adj. R Square=.368**Adj. R Square=.230**
Disclosure MPLD with Personal Issuesα=.925
Disclosure MPLD with Prudent Issuesα=.917


H1 is supported. It was found that a general trusting parent–child climate was positively correlated to child’s MPLD attitudes (r=.471**), which is consistent with the literature on disclosure. This is particularly significant as the literature positions trust as the foundation of parent–child relationships (Borawski, et al., 2003), and crucial in disclosure studies (Smetana, 2011; Smetana, et al., 2006). This study acknowledges that, as with other literature, “greater trust may lead to greater disclosure, and vice versa” [23].

H2 is supported. It was found that perceived privacy invasion was, in general, negatively correlated to children’s MPLD attitudes (r=-.292**). This was not surprising, as privacy invasion is likely to make children more resolved to protect their privacy, resulting in less openness towards their parents (Petronio, 1994). It is also known to have negative effect on parent–child relationships (Petronio, 1994).

H3 is supported. Child’s perception of parental bonding is positively correlated (r=.469**) to child’s MPLD attitudes, which means the stronger the parental bond, the more receptive the child would be to being located via her MPLD service.

H4 and H5 are not supported. Child’s perception of parental monitoring (r=.227**) and solicitation (r=.281**) are positively correlated to child’s MPLD attitudes. Though studies have shown that children may perceive parental monitoring and parental solicitation negatively, this study did not distinguish between child– or parent–initiated disclosure. As such, the findings could reflect an indifferent attitude of the children to such monitoring and solicitation, resulting in increased receptivity to MPLD services.

H6 is supported. Children’s disclosure patterns in general shows a positive correlation (r=.580**) with child’s MPLD attitudes (see Table 1 above). Literature consistently asserted that children’s willing disclosure patterns generally reflects a good parent–child relationship which, in turn, would reflect good disclosure patterns for specific information (Smetana, 2011; Smetana, et al., 2006; Stattin and Kerr, 2000).

H7 is supported. This study found that children’s (Adj. R Square=.368**) perception explained MPLD attitudes better than parents’ (Adj. R Square=.230**) perception, of trust, parental bonding, privacy invasion, parental monitoring, parental solicitation and overall disclosure. It was also found that children’s general disclosure habit is the best predictor of MPLD attitude.

The following section discusses the impact of these findings on disclosure and parenting literature.




First, it was found, and intuitively so, that a good parent–child relational climate, was crucial in getting children to be more receptive to the employment of MPLD services.

Second, the findings also suggest reasons why these parental factors affect the receptivity of children towards MPLD. Reliability testing was done, since disclosure of prudent, multifaceted and personal issues were significantly correlated to children’s MPLD attitudes (see Table 1 above). It was interesting to note that children’s MPLD attitudes showed strong reliability results with disclosure of personal issues (α=.925), prudent issues (α=.917) and multifaceted issues (α=.916). The difference was not significant enough to make strong claims, but it suggests that children may perceive disclosing of their location as a personal issue. Additionally, from Table 2 (below), the findings show that children who perceive parents as having greater knowledge of their whereabouts (parental knowledge), have greater MPLD obligation (obligation to disclose) and perceive parents as having greater legitimate authority over that information. Table 2 also shows that children who perceive that their parents frequently expect them to reveal information (parental monitoring) about their whereabouts, whether at night, after school, or when out with friends, positively correlates to children’s MPLD obligation (obligation to disclose) and parents’ legitimate authority over that information. These findings could be explained in several ways. Firstly, the children were indifferent about being located via MPLD, since they had already established parent–child expectations about disclosure of location. This study would tend toward this explanation, as the respondents gave the feedback that they had not heard of MPLD prior to being involved in this study; this would seem consistent with another study (Boesen, et al., 2010). Alternatively, the children were already using MPLD services and have found it as a favourable means of informing their parents of their location. Either way, the findings suggest that the children in the study did not perceive MPLD to cause additional “harm” to the children, compared to their current situation. It was, therefore, not surprising that MPLD was viewed as a personal issue (versus prudent), “harmless” compared to what they have to account to their parents, and what the parents already know (Smetana, 2011). However, another study suggested that parents may view MPLD as a prudent issue (Boesen, et al., 2010). In general, children’s perception of personal issues is not only harmless, but also private, therefore, this evidence is not conclusive enough to support a claim that MPLD is considered a personal issue by children, and further qualitative studies would be required.


Table 2: Correlational analysis of various measures with the child’s perception of his/her obligation to disclose AND the parent’s legitimate authority over MPLD information.
Note: * Correlation is significant at 0.05 level (2–tailed); ** Correlation is significant at 0.01 level (2–tailed). (R) indicates reverse scoring.
 Obligation to DiscloseLegitimate Authority of ParentParental Measure
My father/mother knows where I go when I am out with friends at night..298**.358**Knowledge
(Always to Never)
My father/mother normally knows where I go and what I do after school..246**.327**
My father/mother had no idea where I was at night, in the last month (R).-.168*-.242**
I am expected to let my father/mother know WHERE I am after school..183*.176*Monitoring
(Always to Never)
I am expected to let my father/mother know WHERE I am when I go out at night..211*.235**
I am expected to tell my father/mother WHERE I am, when I go out with friends..237**.258**


Third, the means for Obligation to Disclose and Legitimate Authority over MPLD information are 3.44 and 3.48 respectively. This suggests that children, in general, are slightly favourable towards MPLD. Lying and secrecy are common ways in which children handle information for self–serving reasons (Smetana, 2011). However, MPLD technology affords little room for the practice of lying and secrecy, and with the slightly favourable attitudes towards the use of MPLD, this study suggests that MPLD may be a viable option that parents may want to consider using to know the whereabouts of their children. It may very well turn out to be a win–win situation where the child is comfortable using MPLD technology to inform parents of their whereabouts, and parents being “more comfortable with their children being away from home” (Barreras and Mathur, 2007).

Fourth, a qualitative study has shown that “lack of trust was the initial motivator” for parents using MPLD technology to track the whereabouts of their children [24]. However, this study did not find any statistically significant correlation with parents’ trust in their children with parents’ attitude towards MPLD. One possible explanation is that the measure used did not measure trust specifically with regard to children disclosing their whereabouts, but more of a general trusting parent–child climate, whereas Boesen, et al.’s study was done qualitatively about location–based services. Boesen, et al. [25] claim that MPLD usage would make the maintenance of trust, in parent–child relationship, unnecessary as it “limits the opportunities to maintain and display trust”. This study finds that children’s favourable attitudes toward MPLD is positively correlated to trust in parents, and claims that the usage of MPLD may potentially show positive contributions to the parent–child trust atmosphere. However, bearing in mind that the correlational result can go in the other direction, and this study did not measure the usage frequency of MPLD technology, but attitude towards it, there should be further research on this. Nonetheless, this study concurs with Boesen, et al.’s claim that “one needs to carefully manage the perception of its use so as not to be perceived as lacking trust” [26].




There are limitations to this study. Firstly, the sample was skewed towards having more mothers (65.3 percent of respondents who are parents) and boys (73.5 percent of respondents who are children). Attempts were made to collect a representative sample of an even age distribution of 12–16 year olds and gender distribution for both parents and children. However, the schools contacted faced scheduling challenges; as such, the desired sample was not achieved. Secondly, as the study did not collect identifiable data, it did not allow the researcher to trace and account for missing or inaccurate data. However, this was done to protect participants’ confidentiality and anonymity.




It is widely recognized that children between the ages of 12 and 16 are increasingly demanding individuation and autonomy, as parents struggle to stay informed about their children’s whereabouts, relationships and activities (Hawk, et al., 2008; Hawk, et al., 2009; Smetana, 2011). However, negotiations between parents and children over individuation and privacy boundaries are typically difficult due to different expectations (Hawk, et al., 2009). Borawski, et al. (2003) claimed that monitoring whereabouts alone has been shown to “lower the likelihood that the adolescent will engage in health risk behaviors” [27]. Knowing the whereabouts of children can be further enhanced with the availability of, and access to, MPLD technology, although it can be complicated by the child’s ability to exploit the limitations of MPLD technology (Boesen, et al., 2010). However, before this study, little was known about children’s responses towards MPLD, and parental factors that could influence its use. This study summarises, and contributes to the literature, in showing that favourable parent–child relational climate, characterised by optimal parental bonding, good trusting relationship, and an atmosphere of minimal privacy invasion, is positively related to children’s greater receptiveness towards MPLD. Furthermore, having an established culture of monitoring and solicitation also helps increase receptiveness towards MPLD. Further investigation into the character of MPLD also suggests that MPLD information may be perceived as harmless information, which is contrary to how some parents feel as prudent information (Boesen, et al., 2010).

Future research could qualitatively examine the nature and character of MPLD, and explore what types of information parents and children classify as personal or prudent. From the onset, this study postured that there was no theoretical motivation to study whether MPLD was child–initiated or parent–initiated (through prompting or rules). However, with the information that children generally have a slightly positive attitude towards MPLD, it would be meaningful for future qualitative studies to look into that distinction. Future research could also look into the “double standards in treatment of different gender by same parents” (Hawk, et al., 2008). Comparisons in location disclosure practices can also be made between MPLD and social networking applications, like FaceBook (Petronio, 2010). End of article


About the authors

Hee Jhee Jiow is a doctoral student in the Department of Communications and New Media at the National University of Singapore. He has 10 years of experience as a trainer and youth worker on CyberWellness issues in Singapore. He research focus is on parental mediation of video gaming in Singapore.
E–mail: jhee [at] nus [dot] edu [dot] sg

Dr. Julian Lin is an assistant professor in the Department of Communications and New Media at the National University of Singapore. He has 14 years of experience as an IT practitioner and is skilled in programming (J2EE, Java, JSP, ASP, Visual Basic, LotusScript for Workflow, JavaScript, JavaServlet), designing and administering database systems (Oracle, Ms SQL, DB/2, Lotus Domino) and designing networks (designing TCP/IP network). He has over a dozen IT certifications in database, groupware, collaboration and knowledge management application and Sun Java programming.
E–mail: lin [at] nus [dot] edu [dot] sg



1. Smetana, 2011, p. 224.

2. Stattin and Kerr, 2000, p. 1,084.

3. Boesen, et al., 2010, p. 68.

4. Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, 2009, p. 36.

5. Petronio, 2010, p. 179.

6. Op. cit.

7. Smetana, 2011, p. 227.

8. Smetana, 2011, p. 241.

9. Parker, et al., 1979, p. 1.

10. Parker, et al., 1979, p. 2.

11. Op. cit.

12. Parker, et al., 1979, p. 8.

13. Op. cit.

14. Parker, et al., 1979, p. 7.

15. Petronio, 1994, p. 251.

16. Smetana, 2011; Stattin and Kerr, 2000, p. 1,073.

17. Armsden and Greenberg, 1987, p. 432.

18. Parker, et al., 1979, p. 2.

19. Op. cit.

20. Parker, et al., 1979, p. 8.

21. Op. cit.

22. Hawk, et al., 2008, p. 604.

23. Smetana, 2011, p. 237.

24. Boesen, et al., 2010, p. 70.

25. Boesen, et al., 2010, p. 73.

26. Op. cit.

27. Borawski, et al., 2003, p. 68.



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The questions for children are reflected here. The questions for parents are reworded accordingly.

MPLD Attitude

Using the locator to let my father/mother know where I am currently, is
Not invasive ..... Very Invasive

His/her right to know ..... Not his/her right to know

My duty to allow him/her access ..... Not my duty to allow him/her access
A very good idea ..... A very bad idea
A wise idea ..... A foolish idea
Favourable ..... Unfavourable
What I would do ..... What I would not do

Trust (Almost Never ..... Almost Always)
My father/mother respects my feelings
I feel my father/mother does a good job as a father/mother
I wish I had a different father/mother
My father/mother accepts me as I am
My father/mother expects too much from me
When we discuss things, my father/mother cares about my point of view
My father/mother trusts my judgment
My father/mother understands me
When I am angry about something, my father/mother tries to understand me
I trust my father/mother

Parental Bonding (Always ..... Never)
My father/mother:
does not help me as much as I need
seems emotionally cold to me
appears to understand my problems and worries
likes me to make my own decisions
tries to control everything I do
tends to baby me and tries to protect me from everything
can make me feel better when I am upset
gives me as much freedom as I want

Perceived Privacy Invasion (Untrue ..... True)
My father/mother:
is always nosing into my business
has to know everything about me
is always interfering
butts into my private matters
often check up on me to see what I’m doing
insists on knowing where I am going
doesn’t pry into my life
isn’t overprotective with me
doesn’t insist on doing things with me

Parental Knowledge (Always ..... Never)
My father/mother:
knows what I do during my free time
knows who I have as friends during my free time
usually know what type of homework I have
know what I spend my money on
usually know when I have an exam or paper due at school
knows how I do in different subjects in school
knows where I go when I am out with friends at night
normally knows where I go and what I do after school
had no idea where I was at night, in the last month

Child Disclosure (Never Tell ..... Always Tell)
Without your father/mother asking, would you tell him/her:
when you get a bad grade/not doing well on work or tests
when finishing homework or assignments
how you are doing in different school subjects
when you are doing particularly well on an assignment or test
when hanging out at a friend’s when no adult is home
when spending time with someone your father/mother does not like
if you are, or who you are dating
how you spend your free time
how you spend your own money
what you talk about on the phone with friends
what you write in emails, letters or journals
who you like or have a crush on

Parental Solicitation (Always ..... Never)
How often does your father/mother talk to your friends when they come over to your house (ask what they do or what they think and feel about different things)?
In the last month, have your father/mother talked with the parents of your friends?
During the past month, how often has your father/mother started a conversation with you about your free time?
Does your father/mother usually ask you to talk about things that happened during your free time (whom you met when you were out in the city, free time activities, etc.)?
How often does your father/mother initiate a conversation about things that happened during a normal day at school?

Parental Monitoring (Always ..... Never)
I am expected to:
let my father/mother know WHERE I am after school
call my father/mother if I am going to be home late
tell my father/mother WHO I am going to be with before I go out
tell my father/mother WHERE I am, when I go out at night
talk with my father/mother about the plans I have with my friends
tell my father/mother WHERE I am, when I go out with friends


Editorial history

Received 5 November 2012 ; accepted 17 December 2012.

Copyright © 2013, First Monday.
Copyright © 2013, Hee Jhee Jiow and Julian Lin. All rights reserved.

The influence of parental factors on children’s receptiveness towards mobile phone location disclosure services
by Hee Jhee Jiow and Julian Lin
First Monday, Volume 18, Number 1 - 7 January 2013

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