There is one thing all moms have always relied on when it comes to parenting: each other. And today, the Internet is helping moms forge relationships through online communities so that they can continue to anonymously express their child-rearing concerns and support each other.
A new study out of Missouri University says that online communities provide an outlet for mothers to share their parenting concerns. Jean Ispa, co-author of this study, professor and co-chair of the MU Department of Human Development and Family Studies says that, “Mothers have feelings that they might be embarrassed to talk about face-to-face with someone. They may feel ashamed if they have feelings like, ‘My child is really stressing me out,’ or ‘My child is annoying me.’ On message boards, with a pseudonym, mothers can say whatever they’re feeling, and they can get emotional support and advice from other moms with similar experiences.”
Both Ispa and Noriko Porter monitored online message boards hosted by two popular parenting magazines, evaluating over 100 posts from mothers with children two years old and younger. They found that the child-rearing concerns moms were most apt to express were those of feeding, eating, sleep, development, discipline, toilet-training and mother-child relationships; basically, moms are talking about what’s happening in their lives right now.
"One of the benefits of message boards is that they are constantly available, so parents can communicate with other parents anytime.” Ispa said of the round the clock posting. “Instead of, or after consulting with medical professionals, some mothers look for quick feedback from their e-cohort. High medical costs and waiting times for appointments may be contributing to mothers turning to the Internet for quick and practical solutions from their peers.” Though it is also worth noting that information moms garner from these boards are usually advice and opinions shared by other moms who’ve found themselves in similar situations.
What else can explain the popularity of online communities and message boards, though? A more mobile America. Ispa says, “Women aren’t next door to their mothers anymore to ask parenting questions, so they turn to their peers over the Internet.”
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