Stressed teenage mums find a little relief in cyberspace

May 18, 2001

A Canadian programme called Cybermoms has been providing support for teenage mothers and helping them develop social networks. It also seems to be improving their literacy skills.

The programme was founded by a professor of social work at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, and is partly funded by her department.

The Cybermoms have been logging on to a chat group to exchange information and to offer support.

"I saw they all had intrinsic skills in making contact with each other," said Carol Kauppi, who has studied women and poverty for the past 15 years.

Professor Kauppi has the permission of the 45 women to monitor the postings for academic purposes.

A community worker also has access to the live and posted logs to try to understand the issues for which the women might need support or professional advice.

The teen mothers particularly appreciate the nocturnal benefits of the service.

"If someone has a baby screaming in the middle of the night and someone happens

to be online, so much the better.

"They can post a message and a couple of hours later, there is a note of encouragement," Professor Kauppi said.

This summer, Professor Kauppi plans to analyse the vast amount of data from the postings and hopes to come up with some comparisons with other young-mother studies. 

Professor Kauppi has seen improvements in the writing skills of the group.

One of the young women who was unable to put sentences together when she joined the Cybermoms is now posting her poetry on the chat group.


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