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New Messaging Service Launched To Help Parents

A new mobile messaging service dubbed ‘ParentText’ has been launched, providing another layer of support to Jamaican parents in becoming more effective in raising children.

The service, being executed under the United Nations Spotlight Initiative and funded by the European Union (EU), provides tips to parents and caregivers of children up to age 17 via text messages, audio and video clips.

The information is delivered through the popular mobile application, WhatsApp.

Speaking at the official launch at the Ministry of Education and Youth’s Caenwood Auditorium in Kingston on Friday (June 17), portfolio Minister, Hon. Fayval Williams, said the service “is a welcome addition to the suite of resources available” to Jamaican parents.

“Research and studies confirm that many parents have to be guided and coached to be able to do a better job,” she pointed out.

She said that through the platform, it is hoped that more parents will “take their responsibilities seriously and become more directly involved in their children’s education and overall care”.

UNICEF Jamaica Representative, Mariko Kagoshima, said the launch of the service locally is in light of research, which indicates that 85 per cent of Jamaican children under 15 years old are being subjected to violent discipline at home.

“Parents need help to learn skills to better understand and deal with the challenges of parenting. These skills can help break the cycle of family violence or prevent it from happening,” she said.

The developers of ParentText Jamaica, which is currently in the pilot phase, are aiming for 1,000 sign-ups across four of the Spotlight Initiative parishes – Kingston and St Andrew, St. Thomas, Clarendon, and Westmoreland.

Persons can access the service by texting the word ‘PARENT’ to 876-838-4897 on WhatsApp.

This initiates an automated response with a series of basic questions that will lead to evidence-base advice and information in areas such as positive reinforcement, relationship building and child behaviour management.

The messages were created and recorded with familiar local voices such as Owen “Blakka” Ellis and Glynis Salmon of Parenting Partners Caribbean (PPC).

The programme is supported by the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation, Children First Agency, PPC and the National Parenting Support Commission (NPSC).

It was originally globally developed by the University of Oxford, Parenting for Lifelong Health (PLH) and IDEMS International (Innovations in Development, Education and the Mathematical Sciences) with funding from the LEGO Foundation.

Jamaica is the first in the Caribbean to launch ParentText. The service is also being implemented in Malaysia.