New From Pew – Networked Families

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…. Indeed, 25% of our survey respondents feel that their family today is now closer than their family when they were growing up thanks to the use of the internet and cell phones, while just 11% say their family today is not as close as families in the past.

That data is from a new report titled Networked Families published by the Pew Internet in American Life Project.

There are two sections of the report that speak to topics in which librarians serving teens might especially be interested. Section 3 titled Family social activities and togetherness looks at family dinner time behaviors, TV viewing behaviors, and Internet socializing behaviors.   One of the findings to consider in this section is:

As with TV, the presence of multiple computers in the household does not necessarily lead family members to be in their own isolated technological corners. Indeed, married with children households with multiple computers have as much (if not more) shared time online with others than single-computer households. We surmise that household members often look over each other’s shoulders to see what interesting things are on the other’s screen.

It’s possible to decide from this finding that even if teens in a household are on one computer within the house, and a parent is on another computer, that doesn’t mean that the two aren’t exchanging information and online finds. As a matter of fact, the report points to the fact that spending individual time online tends to bring family connectedness because children and parents often want to talk with each other about what they looked at while online.

Section 5 of the report is titled, Internet, cell phones, and family communication. This section takes a look at how cell phones help family members keep in touch. It’s interesting to note that:

Younger Americans, having spent much of their teens and early adulthood in a world of cell phones and internet access, tend to see little difference in the closeness of their current and childhood families. Two-thirds of 18-29 year olds and 62% of 30-49 year olds say that the internet and cell phones have not made much difference in how close their family is now compared with the one they grew up in. This drops to 55% for individuals age 65 or older.

This isn’t really surprising since these young people have presumably used cell phones for most of their lives to keep up with family and friends. Yet, while not surprising, it does point to the importance of cell phones in communication and does demonstrate how important it is for those working with teens to realize that cell phones have, for many teens, been a constant part of their lives. In other words, to teens, cell phones are not an addition to their lives. They are simply a given.

Check out the full report to gain an understanding of how technology helps keep American families together.

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