ParentText is an automated text messaging service for parents/caregivers of children aged 0 to 17. It is delivered using RapidPro, an open-source application serving low-income communities without smartphone access, and through SMS and messaging platforms such as Telegram, WhatsApp, and Facebook messenger. The application supports multiple languages, including English and local languages.

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ParentText targets parents with children aged 0 to 17 and contains specific content in the form of text messages, audios, videos, comics, and gifs based on development stages for parents of children aged 0-23 months, 2-9 years, 10-17 years. Messages are delivered to parents over an average of 5 weeks depending on the frequency selected by parents.

The messages are grouped into three main themes: 

  1. Relationship building by spending time together
  2. Positive reinforcement (i.e., praise, daily routines, and child behaviour management)
  3. Stress reduction for parents and caregivers. 

Additional content is available including specific support for parents of children living with disabilities, child development, online child safety, talking about COVID19 with children, family budgeting, family harmony, and helping children with schoolwork. ParentText also includes content on sexual violence prevention as well as partner relationships to prevent intimate partner violence.

Local contextualisation

The messages can be translated and offered in multiple regional languages. Local organisations can also adapt the content of ParentText to allow for cultural contextualization. Furthermore, it is recommended to have the videos and audio messages recorded by local parents/artists to be more suitable and impactful.

User experience

Parents experience ParentText in three ways:

  1. Scheduled text messages include daily activities tailored by child age, reminders, and responses.
  2. On-demand content allows for user-directed engagement in which parents and caregivers self-select content that is most relevant to their context and developmental stage of their children.
  3. Weekly assessments examine the impact of the messages by collecting fully anonymised data

Safeguarding messages

Based on UNICEF chatbot safeguarding guidelines, the chatbot is automated to recognize high-risk keywords and detect disclosure of dangerous situations. After detection, an empathetic and empowering response is offered along with the contact details on where to access professional or urgent help (e.g., police, ambulance, hotline).

Initial Evidence

Current Studies: In 2022, ParentText will be piloted with UNICEF in Jamaica, Malaysia (2021), South Africa, and the Philippines, with further interest for deployment from partners in India, Sri Lanka, Mexico, Myanmar and Cambodia.