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Internet brings families closer, study says

October 19, 2008 |  1:00 pm

What's the matter with kids today? Sometimes it seems as if they spend all day texting and talking to their friends on the phone, ignore their parents at the dinner table, then run off to their computers to IM their friends and hang out on MySpace.

But a national study released today by the Pew Internet & American Life Project said that the ubiquity of cellphones and computers among kids may actually be a good thing for families.

"What's happening is the Internet, including mobile, e-mail and Twitter, is actually helping people keep connected and filling the gaps between when they see each other," said Barry Wellman, a professor at the University of Toronto and one of the authors of the study.

About 70% of couples in which both partners have cellphones call each other at least once a day, and 64% of couples in which both partners own a cellphone use their phones daily to coordinate schedules. And 42% of parents contact their child using a cellphone daily, meaning cellphones are the most popular communication tool between parents and children.

More than half 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, the study found. Married-with-children households are more likely to have high-speed broadband connections than other households and also are likely to own multiple cellphones.

Of course, that may also pull them apart. The report says:

Those with multiple communication devices are somewhat less likely to eat dinner with other household members and somewhat less likely to report high levels of satisfaction with their family and leisure time than are families with lower levels of technology ownership.

Maybe because they're fighting over cellphone bills?

-- Alana Semuels

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