College Students’ Use of Communication Technology with Parents: Influences of Distance, Gender, and Social Presence

Ramsey, Meagan
Oberhauser, Ann
Oberhauser, Ann
Gentzler, Amy
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SociologyWomen's Studies

Information and communication technology (ICT) has significantly affected the way people maintain relationships despite spatial and other social and economic barriers. In the case of college students and their parents, ICT is a means of maintaining this parent-child relationship when students travel far from home to attend school. However, little research has examined college students’ use of various types of technology for communicating with their parents and how it may affect their relationship with their parents. This chapter analyzes the socio-spatial aspects of how college students use a variety of communication channels (cell phones, text messaging, email, and social networking sites) to connect with their parents using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Specifically, the study addresses: 1) the impact of geographical distance between a college student and their parent on their use of communication technology and the qualities of their relationship, 2) how the gender of both the students and their parents influences the amount and type of communication technology students use with their parents, and 3) whether or not students’ social presence mediates the association between using particular technologies to communicate with their parents and their relationship with their parents. Overall, this chapter contributes to our understanding of the social and spatial aspects of communication technologies within the parent-child relationship and has important implications for universities and families with students transitioning to college.


This book chapter is published as Ramsey, Megan A., Ann M. Oberhauser, and Amy L. Gentzler (2016) “College students’ use of communication technology with parents: Influences of distance, social presence, and gender.” In G. Riva, B. K. Wiederhold, and P. Cipresso (eds.) The Psychology of Social Networking: Identity and Relationships in Online Communities, Vol. 2, p. 128-140. De Gruyter. DOI: 10.1515/9783110473858-012. Posted with permission.