The use of mobile phone technology as an assistive tool for emotional support of adolescents orphaned by aids in South Africa
The majority of adolescents in developing countries own and use cell phones. Given the number of adolescents orphaned by HIV and AIDS in South Africa, use of mobile phones to monitor their progress, and provide emotional support seems a feasible and cost effective option to provide support. The purpose of the study was to solicit caregivers’ views on the use of mobile phone technology as an assistive tool in providing emotional support to adolescents. Three focus group interviews were conducted among caregivers working in an AIDS Awareness Centre which is visited regularly by adolescents orphaned by AIDS. Contrasting views on the use of mobile technology as an assistive tool in providing emotional support were raised by the caregivers. Two major themes emerged: Doubts about the efficacy of using mobile phones for counselling and providing emotional support were expressed based on the fact that there will be a lack of direct physical interaction and communication. The second theme, in direct contrast with the first theme illustrated that the majority of caregivers acknowledged the potential and positive application in supporting adolescents. If appropriately applied, mobile phone technology could be helpful as a supportive tool for adolescents in a primary health care context.
Keywords: Adolescents orphaned by AIDS, caregivers, emotional support, mobile phones, South Africa.
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