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The Use of Mobile Phone & Internet in Transnational Mothering among Migrant Domestic Workers in Singapore Shelly Malik Siti Zubeidah Kadir Wee Kim Wee.

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Presentation on theme: "The Use of Mobile Phone & Internet in Transnational Mothering among Migrant Domestic Workers in Singapore Shelly Malik Siti Zubeidah Kadir Wee Kim Wee."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Use of Mobile Phone & Internet in Transnational Mothering among Migrant Domestic Workers in Singapore Shelly Malik Siti Zubeidah Kadir Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information 9 December 2011 CPRsouth6, Bangkok, 2011

2 Introduction 1.5 million women 9 million children Impact of separation

3 Introduction 9 million children The role of ICT in transnational mothering Constructing a ‘connected relationship’ (Wilding, 2006)  Potential role of ICTs in transnational mothering  Constructing a ‘connected relationship’ (Wilding, 2006)  Research gap  A framework to guide research  The role of Internet  The importance of mothering  Objective  To examine the roles of mobile phone and internet applications in child rearing practices of migrant domestic workers

4 Conceptual Framework ICT for Child Rearing diagram Model adapted from: ICT-for-healthcare-development model (Chib et al., 2008) and Child Rearing Practices constructs (Block, 1965; McNally et al., 1991; Roberts et al., 1984) Intimacy Alleviating worry Parental control Expression of affect Achievement Emphasis on health Independence Transnational Mothering

5 Methodology  Snowball and convenience sampling  11 Indonesian and 11 Filipina female  All except 1 are using both Internet and mobile phone to communicate with their children  Focus group discussion / interview and self-completion survey  Conducted in English and Bahasa Indonesia  The survey presents an insight into domestic workers’ general use of ICTs, e.g., type of ICTs, frequency, communication time.  The focus group discussions / interviews provide an in-depth understanding, e.g., topics discussed on different ICT types, transnational child rearing practices, benefits and barriers of ICT use.

6 Key Findings  Partially alleviate worry about child  Monitor child’s activities, health, meal intakes The positive side is that I can contact her anytime. Every day I ask her what time you wake up, what you eat, what you do at school. I will also tell her every day what I do, what I cook. (R22)  Exert parental control When she goes home from school, she has to finish her homework first before playing. I SMS her at around the time she is doing homework to check. (R21)  Encourage child’s achievement  Express affection 1. ICTs are critical instruments for transnational child rearing practices

7 Key Findings  ICTs permit frequent communication and informs mothers of their children’s physical and emotional needs  All believe they have a close relationship with their children, but it may be an “imagined” closeness She doesn’t know what kind of work I am doing here. She also doesn’t ask much. She just knows that I work in Singapore to make money. (R14)  Mobile phone calls most useful in facilitating intimate communication. I always ask them why you feel sad, then they always tell me why. Better to call then SMS, because in SMS you cannot tell what they are feeling inside. I always tell them, good or bad, tell me so I can help you. So I always spend a lot on global call on this, because I don’t want my children to keep anything inside the heart. (R3) 2. ICTs facilitate intimacy creation and maintenance

8 Key Findings  Mobile phone is most preferred, for its direct contact, convenience, fast response, and audio feature Using letter, we have to wait for a long time. Using handphone, we can quickly know, even in one minute, how she is, whether she has eaten. (R22)  Internet’s visual engagement through Facebook photos and video chat (I prefer) video cam cause it is clearer, I can talk and see at the same time and can see their facial expressions. But because I can’t use it as and when I need, so I have to use the handphone. (R21)  Facebook allows flexibility and new ways of communication and helps to keep track of their children in a non-intrusive way. I check who her friends are, her activities. I see when she post comments and if it’s not very nice, I will comment on her to watch her words. (R10) 3. New ICTs complement rather than replace old technology

9 Key Findings  ICTs cannot replace physical presence (Taking care of children with technology is) not enough. Lacking in love. Lacking due to the distance although we often call and send SMS. I can’t hug her. (R22)  More pronounced when children are sick or unhappy My daughter doesn’t want to tell me if she’s sick. So I have to check with my parents, then I will talk to her. (R13)  Infrastructural issues  Most respondents are allowed to use ICTs after they finish their work. Few face stricter employers. My Ma’am said that even using handphone requires electricity. (R19) 4. ICTs are not able to fully bridge the physical separation

10 Conclusion  Separation due to economic reasons  Negative impact on mothers and children In the past she often complained, but now not anymore. I told her that if I didn’t work, who would pay for her school fee. (R22)  ICTs are critical tools for transnational mothering  Should governments / employers provide access to more types of ICTs?  Should it be made compulsory for employers to let domestic workers contact their families regularly?  New ICTs complement old technologies For now, we can communicate well. But if possible, in the future there will be a better communication tool. (R13)  ICTs are unable to fully bridge physical separation  Should domestic workers be given a paid leave to return home?


12 Results  Respondents profile IndonesianFilipina Age 36.736.8 Marital Status Married 48 Divorced 72 High school & above 59 Number of years in Singapore 10.45.8 Salary (S$) 540.9503.5 Number of child1.64 2 Child care taker Mother/father 73 Husband 14

13 Results  Mobile phone usage IndonesianFilipina Hold both Singapore and home country numbers37 Use the following mobile phone application everyday Call910 SMS911 Access Internet73 Pay mobile phone bill Myself 910 My employer 01 Myself & my employer 20 Monthly mobile phone bill (S$) 53.447.3

14 Results  Internet usage IndonesianFilipina Use the following Internet application everyday Email40 Chat51 Social Networking Sites95 Pay Internet bill Myself 46 My employer 65 Monthly Internet bill (S$) 45.025.1

15 Results (RQ1)  ICT use to communicate with child IndonesianFilipina Use the following everyday: Home phone22 Public phone01 Call via Mobile phone47 SMS89 E-mail21 Chat21 Social Networking Sites65 Call child per day 30 minutes and less69 30 minutes and more52 SMS child per day Up to 1057 10 and more64

16 Results (RQ2) ICT for transnational childrearing practices  Alleviating worry about child  They are worried primarily about their children’s social company, who they mix with, drugs.  ICT somewhat lessen their worry as they are able to call/SMS to check where they are, or call their caretakers.  FB enables them to know their children’s friends.  Monitoring child’s health  They generally trust their caretakers on food for their children.  They usually know that their children are sick through their children’s SMS or the caretakers.  Still have to rely to the caretakers when the children are sick, e.g., to bring them to doctor

17 Results (RQ2) ICT for transnational childrearing practices  Encouraging child’s independence  Most of them would give advices but they would “leave the final decision to their children as they are the ones undergoing it”.  Encouraging child’s achievement  Most of them would encourage their children to give their best and even ask them to be the top student, but will not force them. “ I don’t want to give pressure to them as they are already separated from their parents. What’s important is to do their best. ” (Kinah)

18 Results (RQ2) ICT for transnational childrearing practices  Asserting parental control  They set certain rules, directly or in discussion with caretaker.  Rules are related to the time they have to go home, boy & girl relationship. Mixed in term of setting rules for mobile phone / Internet usage.  To monitor, rely on their caretaker or contact their child directly. “She has to reach home by 2 o’clock. I ask my mother to check it. “ (Yati) “I often check where she is at night, more than my mother-in-law as I don’t want to burden her with so many responsibilities in addition to taking care of my daughter.” (Santi)  If rules are broken, cut their pocket money, reason with them. Rarely take their children’s mobile phone away.

19 Results (RQ2) ICT for transnational childrearing practices  Expressing their affect  Rarely lose temper at their children.  Frequently joke around, via FB, call, SMS, teasing each other on having girl/boyfriend or new dad. “My son asked me to look for a new father quickly. He asked me to remarry as he said he didn’t have a father since he was young.” (Tini)  They usually find out that their children are upset / sad through their SMS, which they would then follow up with a phone call to encourage them. “My son sent me an SMS saying that he was a victim of his parents’ divorce.” (Nuri) “If her SMS is simple (one word), I know that she is not in the mood.” (Santi)

20 Results (RQ3) Barriers for ICT use in transnational mothering  Infrastructural  Bad network connection, especially when it rains or on public holidays.  Electricity blackout  Economic  Cost is not an issue. Some mentioned that using Internet has saved them some money.  They limit their monthly ICT spending.  Technological  Not an issue. Mobile phone and Internet are easy to use.  A couple mentioned that they just needed more practice.

21 Results (RQ3) Barriers for ICT use in transnational mothering  Socio-cultural  Men and women have equal opportunities in ICT use. Only one mentioned that women might be disadvantaged as “homemakers need to take care of the house, husband, and children so they don’t have enough time.” (Yati)  ICT does not go against religion / tradition. One mentioned that ICT may slightly go against religious values due to its occassional negative contents.

22 Results (RQ4) ICT for maintaining intimacy  Technology helps but not enough  All felt they had a close relationship with their children.  Technology helps them to communicate well.  But presence (being with the children) is necessary and it can’t be replaced by existing technology.  Some mentioned their children asked them when they would go home.  All would still work overseas even if there hadn’t been advancement in ICT, due to economic reason.

23 Results (RQ5) Unique properties of mobile phone and Internet  Call  More convenient  Fast response (especially as compared to letter)  Able to hear their children’s voice.  Can be more expressive. “Mama, miss you muah muah” (Santi).  SMS  Not sure if the other party can reply directly.

24 Results (RQ5) Unique properties of mobile phone and Internet  Chat  Get a direct response.  When using video camera, able to see child’s appearance and facial expression.  The time to use the Internet may not be the same.  Limited access to video camera and Internet.  Facebook  Able to check child’s friends.  Often used to make jokes through comments.  Used as and when they are free. Leave comments and not expecting immediate reply.

25 Discussion  Despite the distance, female domestic workers are still very much involved in caring for their children, relying on ICT as well as their children’s caretaker.  ICT is not able to fully offset the lack of physical presence, in line with Wilding (2006).  The use of Internet has not resulted in increased spending. In addition, video cam chat and Facebook serve as an alternative to phone call and SMS instead of replacing them.  Among Indonesian domestic workers, their main worry is the company their children mix with. Facebook allows them to monitor who their children’s friends are.

26 Implication  Domestic workers should be allowed to own a mobile phone and given a certain amount of time to communicate with their children.  Give training to domestic workers to use the Internet, specifically Facebook and chat.

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