It's happening in my home, and it could be in yours . . . The Internet is stealing family time and endangering our relationships.
Researchers are reporting that more and more of America’s Internet-connected households report erosion of face-to-face family time, increased feelings of being ignored by family members using the Web, and growing concerns that children are spending too much time online.
Researchers at the USC Annenberg School for Communication report the percentage of people who say they spend less time with household members since being connected to the Internet at home has nearly tripled, from 11 percent in 2006, to 28 percent in 2008.
Total hours devoted to family socializing contracted sharply over this three-year period. Through the middle of the decade, reports of shared family time had fluctuated around an average of 26 hours per month (ranging from 22.6 to 29.8 hours). By 2008, shared time had dropped by more than 30 percent, to 17.9 hours. Reports of feeling ignored, at least sometimes, by family members using the Internet grew by 40 percent over the same period. Higher income households may be suffering greater family time erosion: 35 percent report a reduction in face-to-face time.
According to researchers, women report being ignored by a family Internet user more often; almost half say they are sometimes or often ignored (49.2%) vs. less than forty percent of men (39.1%). Gilbert, who focuses on family and gender issues, thinks this may reflect the varying emphasis the sexes place on relationships, the balance women appear to maintain in their home computer use, or the persistent call of their other family and household responsibilities.
In 2000, when the surveys began, just 11 percent of respondents said family members under eighteen were spending too much time online, a concern that had grown to 28 percent by 2008. All of this suggests increasing technological pressures on the family structure.
“The family is our social foundation, society’s basic building block. We need to guard its health in what otherwise seems to be a boundless digital future," the authors say in their report.