Technology Creates Family Connectedness
3 November 2008 at 2:24 pm
The internet and mobile phones have become central components of modern family life. Among all household types, the traditional nuclear family has the highest rate of technology usage and ownership and the effects, according to new research, are all good.
A US survey of 2,252 adults by the Pew Internet & American Life Project has found that households with a married couple and minor children are more likely than other household types — such as single adults, homes with unrelated adults, or couples without children – to have mobile phones and use the internet.
– 89% of married-with-children households own multiple mobile phones, and nearly half own three or more mobile devices.
– 66% of married-with-children households have a high-speed broadband internet connection at home, well above the US national average for all households of 52%.
– Both spouses and at least one child go online in 65% of married-with-children households.
– 58% of married-with-children households contain two or more desktop or laptop computers.
The survey shows that these high rates of technology ownership affect family life. In particular, mobile phones allow family members to stay more regularly in touch even when they are not physically together. Moreover, many members of married-with-children households view material online together.
Tracy Kennedy, author of a new report about the survey called "Networked Families" says some analysts have worried that new technologies hurt family togetherness, but the research shows that technology allows for new kinds of connectedness built around cell phones and the internet.
Kennedy says family members touch base with each other frequently with their mobile phones and they use those phones to coordinate family life on the fly during their busy lives.
– 70% of couples in which both partners own a mobile phone contact each other daily to say hello or chat; 54% of couples who have one or no cell phones do this at least once a day.
– 64% of couples in which both partners own a mobile phone contact each other daily to coordinate their schedules; 47% of couples who have one or no phones do this at least once a day.
– 42% of parents contact their child/children on a daily basis using a cell phone, making cell phones the most popular communications tool between parents and children.
Kennedy says a lot of families treat the internet as a place for shared experiences. They don’t just withdraw from the family to their own computer for private screen time. They often say, ‘Hey – look at this!’ to others in the household.
Some 52% of internet users who live with a spouse and one or more children go online with another person at least a few times a week. Another 34% of such families have shared screen moments at least occasionally.
Overall, respondents in this survey see much upside and little downside in the way new technologies have affected the quality of their communications with others.
When asked if the internet and mobile phones had made family life different for their current family compared with the family in which they had grown up, 25% said their family today is closer than their family when they were growing up, 11% said their family today is not as close as families in the past, and 60% said that new technologies have not made their family any more or less close than their family in the past.
However, the benefits of the internet and mobile phones are somewhat counterbalanced in some families by their contribution to the speed of modern life and their role in blurring the lines between "work" and "home" life.
Some 11% of employed internet users say the internet has increased the amount of time they spend working from the office, and 19% say it has increased the amount of time they spend working from home.
The report called Networked Families can be downloaded at: http://www.pewinternet.org/report_display.asp?r=266