Money motivates offspring to call home

With communication by mobile phone and other means so easy, a third of US university students now speak with their parents at least once a day. The principal topic of conversation? Money.

This is the finding of a survey answered by more than 800 parents, which was sponsored by the organisation College Parents of America, which said it intended to conduct the study annually.

Three quarters of respondents say they communicate at least twice a week with a son or daughter away at university, and a third have contact at least once a day. Some 10 per cent say they communicated more than once a day in some way.

"Why? I think it is because they care, and they can," James Boyle, president of the association, said. "Today's parents, when their kids go off to college, worry about them and how they're doing academically. Are they spending too much money and are they eating healthily? The technology makes it easy to stay in touch."

Ninety per cent of parents use mobile phones to communicate, while 25 per cent use land lines. Some 60 per cent use e-mail, although parents apparently have yet to discover instant messaging. Most said they never use it.

Most also never use conventional mail. Only 7 per cent of parents communicate by letter.

Some parents like to stay in touch in person. Ninety per cent have attended an orientation programme at their child's university campus. Seventy-five per cent visit in person once or twice a semester and nearly one in five visits once a month or more often.

"Some parents overdo it a bit, I think," Mr Doyle said. If there is a downside to that, he said, "it might be that it keeps the students from developing friendships and spending time on the priorities of studying and learning how to live on their own if they're constantly tethered to their parents". But he added: "The alternative is not good either, where parents are not in touch with their kids at all."

When students call or e-mail home, the topic they most request help or advice about is money, the survey found. The subject of career planning increases in importance as graduation nears.

More than 80 per cent of this generation of parents say they are "more involved" or "much more involved" in their university-age children's daily lives than their parents were in theirs.

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