Networked families: the good and the bad

Family_laptop There’s no escaping it, technology has embedded itself into all of our lives and clearly it’s here to stay. While some embrace it, others resist its call claiming it is having a negative effect. A recent study shows there’s reason for optimism and concern.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has been studying the influence of the internet on the lives of Americans for several years. Their latest report entitled "Networked families" sheds some light on how the increasing connectedness afforded by mobile phones, social networking and other tech tools is influencing our lives at home with our loved ones.

Networked families full study

Here are the key findings:

  • Technology now permeates American households and has become a central feature of families’ day-to-day lives.
  • Technology is enabling new forms of family connectedness that revolve around remote cell phone interactions and communal internet experiences.
  • Busy and tech-using families are less likely to share meals and less likely to report satisfaction with their leisure time.
  • The cell phone affords extra contact, especially for couples who want to touch base and need to coordinate their busy lives.
  • The internet enables shared “Hey, look at this!” experiences.
  • A majority of adults say technology allows their family life today to be as close, or closer, than their families were when they grew up.
  • People say that new communication tools help them stay connected with friends and family, although their use has blurred traditional lines between “work” and “home.”
  • Many people spend less time watching television thanks to the internet.
  • As people spend more time working, they are less satisfied with the amount of time they can spend on their hobbies or relaxing.

Although the study looks primarily at American families, much of what the research uncovered is likely true of Canadian families, given the vast similarities in terms of tech adoption, media consumption and work/life balance (though I’m told Americans favour work even more than we do… can you imagine?). Also, a University of Toronto PhD candidate, Tracy Kennedy, contributed to the study by sharing the results of work she is doing on how Canadian households use internet-connected tech to stay in touch and stay organized.

Do you agree with the study’s key findings? Is technology making family life better or worse for Canadians?