Shirley Ho

Shirley Ho_2019

Professor of Communication
Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information
Research Director for the Arts, Humanities, Education, and Social Sciences, President’s Office
Nanyang Technological University

Personal website

What are you currently working on?
Over the years, I have developed two main lines of research inquiries. Other than public opinion and science communication (which I have conducted extensive research), I have developed a keen interest in investigating the social-psychological impact of new media on the cyber wellness of children, adolescents, and adults. (Note: Ever since I became a mum, this research topic becomes more important to me :-). Together with May Lwin and Liang Chen, I am fortunate to lead a recently completed research project that looks at the phenomenon of cyberbullying and how it threatens children’s and adolescents’ physical and psychological health. Funded by the Singapore Ministry of Education, we assess the relationships between cyberbullying and parental mediation strategies among children and adolescents in Singapore. Using a combination of meta-analysis, focus group studies and large-scale matched parent-child surveys, our studies showed the key factors that predicted cyberbullying perpetration and victimization. Our findings also highlighted the need for a deeper examination of parental mediation of social media as a potentially effective strategy to alleviate the incidence of cyberbullying. [See Ho, Chen, & Ng, 2017; Chen, Ho, & Lwin, 2017; Ho, Lwin, Chen, & Chen, 2019; Ho, Lwin, Yee, Sng, & Chen, 2019]

Suggested readings:

What has been your most memorable project so far, and why?
There are many projects that I count as memorable. But if I must pick one that is related to CAM research, it must be the one on cyberbullying that I mentioned above. We developed a theory-derived, successively validated, and reliable scale in parental mediation of social media. The four conceptually distinct strategies that we validated were active mediation, restrictive mediation, authoritarian surveillance, and non-intrusive inspection (Ho, Lwin, Chen, & Chen, 2019). We further found that parents’ third-person perceptual gap – in which they perceived other children as more susceptible to cyberbullying than their own children – was negatively associated with their support for anti-cyberbullying legislation, and positively associated with parental mediation strategies (Ho, Lwin, Yee, Sng, & Chen, 2019). The impact of the project to the field is evidenced by the numerous research awards that we won.

These research findings and achievements did not come easy. The memorable part of this project is not just the research findings, but also the many hurdles that we had to overcome to get our studies published. Because our subjects are children and adolescents in primary and secondary schools, I recall we had to go through many rounds of ethics review from the university, as well as official approvals from participating schools and the relevant governmental agencies. Not only that, our parent-child matched-sample design also required us to reach out to the parents of the students who participated in our study. Despite bureaucratic delays, logistical demands, and headaches, we managed to resolve the problems and successfully completed our study.

As the saying goes, “No pain, no gain.” This is what makes research memorable.

Which achievement are you most proud of, and why?
I am a proud coach of all the doctoral and master’s students who had graduated under my supervision.  When it comes to academic supervision and mentoring, I often liken myself to a soccer coach, where I lead, nurture, and offer directions to a group of soccer players. Every member of my team, comprising of an international mix of PhD and MA students, is a valuable soccer player. I believe that learning is best achieved through direct involvement in academic writing and research collaboration. I provide my students with the opportunity to collaborate by involving them in my various funded research projects. Like an active soccer coach, I identify the individual strengths and weaknesses of my graduate students through working with them. It is gratifying to see the students I nurtured winning top paper research awards and blossoming into star players in their respective playing fields.

What is an important question from parents and practitioners that we as academics cannot provide a good answer to yet?
Parents and practitioners often like clear-cut answers to their questions. For example, common questions are “How many hours should I allow my children to use their tablet?” “When should I give my child a mobile phone?” etc. These are questions that requires answers that are conditional, and parents should be made aware that most “answers” provided by academics can vary, depending on the age and maturity of their child, contexts of use, etc.

What would be your work motto?
Inquisitive. Perseverance. Discipline.

Which of your publications is your favorite, and why?
My favorite publication is “Social-Psychological Influences on Opinion Expression in Face-to-Face and Computer-Mediated Communication,” which was published in Communication Research in 2008. It was my master’s thesis, and I was thrilled to see it published after many rounds of revision.  In the study, I conducted one of the first investigations to assess the applicability of the spiral of silence theory from face-to-face context to computer-mediated communication context. Notably, I demonstrated that computer-mediated context deactivated the key element in the spiral of silence – fear of isolation – and encouraged people with minority viewpoints to speak out vis-à-vis the face-to-face context. I believe this study subsequently encouraged public opinion scholars to examine the applicability of the spiral of silence theory in social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and microblogs.

If you had unlimited resources, what kind of project would you want to do and why?
A truly interdisciplinary research project that helps to solve a pressing social issue. This would require the assembly of collaborators from different fields and disciplines. Of course, unlimited resources would help to support this endeavor.

If you had to give one piece of advice to young CAM scholars, what would it be?
Develop a network of informal mentors. Having occasional conversations with senior scholars may enable you to have clearer career directions.

Who would you like to put in the spotlight next, and why?
I would like to nominate Wonsun Shin from the University of Melbourne, Australia, who does outstanding work about parental mediation of children’s use of online media.