ParentText Jamaica gains momentum
More than 1,300 parents access mobile messaging service
SINCE ITS launch in June 2022, ParentText Jamaica has been gaining steady momentum among parents seeking new and effective ways to tackle parenting challenges, with more than 1,300 so far signing up to receive ‘family tips at their fingertips’.
ParentText Jamaica is accessible via WhatsApp and is made available via UNICEF’s U-Report Jamaica social messaging tool. Spearheaded locally by UNICEF Jamaica, in partnership with the National Parenting Support Commission (NPSC), the service comes at a time when parents are facing growing challenges made more severe by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am pleased to see that parents are utilising ParentText,” said Olga Isaza, UNICEF representative. “We hope they continue to be positively impacted by the materials and will encourage others to sign up. The goal is to reach as many caregivers as possible,” she added while reinforcing the need to protect our children and create healthier homes. ParentText was originally developed by the University of Oxford, Parenting for Lifelong Health and IDEMS International (Innovations in Development, Education and the Mathematical Sciences) with funding from the LEGO Foundation. The service has been rolled out in Jamaica with UNICEF support through the European Union-funded Spotlight Initiative to eradicate violence against women and girls. ParentText is geared towards providing Jamaican parents with practical and personalised parenting tips and techniques in text, audio and video formats, for various stages of a child’s development from birth to 17 years old.
“That we are crossing a landmark of 1,300 users is really encouraging,” said chief executive officer of NPSC, Kaysia Kerr. “The commission is actively seeking to increase our mix of services to involve simplicity and technology, and ParentText does just that; delivering messages that are easily accessible to Jamaicans.”
ParentText messages are grouped into three main categories: Relationship building by spending time together; Positive reinforcement including praise, daily routines, and child behaviour management; and Stress reduction for parents and caregivers. Additional content is available, including specific support for parents of children living with disabilities; child development; online child safety; family budgeting; family harmony; and helping children with schoolwork. ParentText also includes content on preventing sexual violence, as well as preventing intimate partner violence.
A study is being conducted by Oxford University this year on the impact of the pilot on parents in Jamaica, with a researcher visiting the island to conduct focus group sessions with parents in urban and rural areas, including adolescent mothers.
The Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF) is also partnering with ParentText to provide a special version for teenage mothers ages 16 to 18 years old, whose parents provide consent for them to sign up. This will be used for further monitoring and evaluation of the benefits of the service to adolescent parents.
“It’s an excellent initiative. If we look at what is happening in society today, we will recognise that vulnerable families are struggling and need help,” said Beverly Martin-Berry, director of field operations at the WCJF. “ParentText Jamaica presents a unique opportunity for the country where we can assist thousands of caregivers remotely by giving them access to useful content. As such, this initiative must be lauded for its use of technology and innovation.”
Meanwhile, Susan Chang-Lopez, senior trainer at Reach Up Jamaica, a global early childhood parenting initiative which is aimed at creating healthier home environments for children, was intrigued by how user-friendly it was and the information it provided. “I was able to share my challenges and receive useful parenting tips and material, and I like that the information is not general but rather specific to various issues that caregivers face. This is exactly the type of initiative that was needed to support existing parenting resources.”
Jamaica is the second country in the world to launch ParentText, and the first in the Caribbean. Jamaicans can sign up by sending the word PARENT on WhatsApp to 876-838-4897.
The parenting messages were created and recorded with local experts such as Owen ‘Blakka’ Ellis and Glynis Salmon from Parenting Partners Caribbean. Users can complete self-assessments to gauge the impact of ParentText on their parenting.