The percentage of Americans spending less face-time with others in their household since being connected to the internet at home has nearly tripled, from 11% in 2006, to 28% in 2008 and has resulted in many Americans – most notably women – feeling ignored by web-surfing family members, according to (pdf) a survey by the USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future.
The research found that the total number of hours devoted to family socializing has contracted sharply since 2006 after fluctuating around an average of 26 hours per month (ranging from 22.6 to 29.8 hours) through the middle of the decade. However, by 2008, shared time had dropped by more than 30%, to 17.9 hours.
Michael Gilbert,? a senior fellow at the Center, noted that diminishing family time also coincides with the explosive growth of social networks and the importance people place on them.
While friendship and social circles are not contracting, these reduced family time internet patterns apply across most demographic categories although higher income households may be suffering greater family time erosion: 35% report a reduction in face-to-face time, the Center said.
Women Feel Most Ignored
At the same time as family togetherness is decreasing, reports of feeling ignored – at least sometimes – by family members using the internet, grew by 40% over the same period. 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 40% of men (39.1%).
Gilbert suggested that these gender differences 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.
Kids’ Internet Time Causes More Concern
The Center also has been tracking steadily rising concerns about the amount of time kids and teens are spending online. In 2000, when its surveys began, just 11% of respondents said family members under age 18 were spending too much time online, a concern that had grown to 28% by 2008.
All of this suggests increasing technological pressures on the family structure. “American families have always been resilient, easily absorbing new technologies, from the telephone to television, and turning them to advantage,” Gilbert said.? “But the internet delivers an engrossing interactive universe into our homes and demands much greater individual commitment. This can play havoc with our personal boundaries.