The Use of Mobile Phone and Internet in Transnational Mothering Among Migrant Domestic Workers in Singapore
19 Pages Posted: 25 Dec 2011
Date Written: December 23, 2011
The present study investigates the use of ICTs, particularly mobile phone and internet, among female migrant domestic workers in Singapore for transnational mothering. Through survey and interviews or focus group discussions to 11 Filipino and 11 Indonesian domestic workers, we found that ICTs played a critical role in their child rearing practices. Despite the distance, ICTs enabled them to be closely involved in their children’s routines, get updates about their studies, and even set rules and ensure that they are observed. ICTs were able to partially alleviate their worries about their children, build and maintain intimacies through jokes and frequent communication. While mobile phone was still most preferred for its convenience and voice function, new technologies, such as Facebook and video chat, played a complementary role to, rather than replacing, mobile phone. Facebook allowed them to check on their children’s friends, while video chat combined the benefits of simultaneously talking to and seeing their children. However, ICTs were no substitute to physical presence in which their limited abilities to bridge time and space was magnified when their children fell sick or felt sad. Barriers to the use of ICTs still exist, most commonly in the form of infrastructural barriers in their home countries and employers’ restrictions. Considering the importance of ICT use in connecting with their families and children, governments should push for greater access to ICTs for domestic workers, not only in providing mobile phone handsets, but more importantly, in ensuring the rights to contact their families regularly.
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