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Connected -- And Happy About It

For any of us who've spent time watching YouTube videos or playing online games with our kids or who rely on our cellphones to call each other to coordinate schedules, this new research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project won't be a surprise.

Nearly all married adults with children use the Internet. And many of us don't look at the Internet as a solo medium. When we get online with others in the family, it's with our children almost half the time. As for cellphones, most of us parents have them and nearly three-quarters of us use them to coordinate our schedules. More than 40 percent of us use those wonderful cell phones to keep track of call our children (ages 7 to 17) at least once a day. That's slightly more than our landline-to-children phone use. And a few of us -- a mere 7 percent -- are texting with our children daily. (For more details from the study, check out Donna St. George's story in today's paper.)

So, what does Pew say all those numbers translate to? Families who believe that their communication has either improved or stayed the same; families who use their homes as hubs for connectivity and use technology together; and households that are supplementing -- and sometimes supplanting -- landlines with cell phones.

In other words, all this technology isn't the big bad wolf after all. It can actually -- gasp -- be helpful to families with children.

What are some of your favorite ways you use the Internet or cell phone to connect with your kids? And at what age of your child did you decide that it was helpful for the entire family to have cell phones? Are there times that your inter-family technological connections have taught you something new about your child?

Elsewhere In the News: Canada Bans BPA in Baby Bottles ... The Strain to Pay for College ... Families Turn From Luxury Spending to Greater Spiritual Prosperity

By Stacey Garfinkle |  October 20, 2008; 8:53 AM ET  | Category:  Newsmakers , Relationships
Previous: The Best Halloween Loot | Next: A New Era in Divorce and Child Support

Comments


On-line communication can prove once again that I'm a bad Dad. :-(

This weekend was homecoming at middle DD's high school. Normally my job is to take those not involved and stay the h-e-double-hockey-sticks out of the way. But DW's got the flu, so it fell to me to do the chauffeuring and other tasks. Finally managed to get DD and her friends where they need to be - parade, football game, dinner, dance, after-dance sleepover, the whole nine yards.

Sunday morning, oldest DD comes home from college, complaining. She's already seen all the photos on Facebook - how could I possibly have let her sister go to a big dance like that, looking that way? Oh, the dress was fine, but her hair wasn't done up the way it could have been; she hadn't done much with makeup - in short, big sis was embarrassed to see the photos.

I am such a bad Dad. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | October 20, 2008 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Internet & cell phone have been invaluable for this new stay-at-home mom so I can stay in touch with my sister, my mother and friends. We "talk" daily. For family who live far away, pictures sent from a cell phone help them stay in touch with the newest family member (e.g. picture of first Halloween pumpkin picking trip etc.).

Posted by: ishgebibble | October 20, 2008 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Well AB, you can use the Internet to study up on the latest trends in hair and makeup so you never make that mistake again! Thanks for a good laugh this morning.

Posted by: annenh | October 20, 2008 11:08 AM | Report abuse

It turns out I'm a slave to my cell phone. I was so resistant to using it, and now I'm hooked. We went away to the boonies last week and left our daughter with my mom. Our cell phones didn't work out there, so we actually had to use a landline to communicate. It felt out of control. It was especially difficult since it was the first time we left our daughter overnight with someone other than one of us! Of course everything was fine, but it did affect my ability to fully relax. Silly, I know, but true.

Posted by: atb2 | October 20, 2008 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Even though we do not have a land line, we do not use our cell phone extensively like some others. Maybe once our kids are in elementary school we will use it more often. What we have found especially nice is using Skype to talk to family that is not in the area. Our kids are able to *see* their grandparents and aunt at any time and per request. When you live far away from family, that is priceless!

Posted by: gdc33 | October 20, 2008 12:46 PM | Report abuse

I agree with gdc33. My parents live across the country. Without Skype my 2-yr-old would not know them. Nor would he know his great-grandparents, unle, great aunts, the list goes on. We also use Skype during holidays to connect the family gathering in Maryland to the family gatherings in California and Nevis. Our family has become a lot closer since we started "skyping" each other.

Posted by: 3littlebirks | October 20, 2008 1:59 PM | Report abuse

My kids are still too little to have entered cell phone world themselves, but cellphones and BBs are invaluable on the parental side of the equation. Logistics are hard enough with two kids and two full-time jobs; at least the technology allows us to reach the other quickly when something throws a kink in our plans.

I also love Google traffic -- when I'm on my way to get kids and everything comes to a dead stop on I-95, I can pull up that chunk of road and see if it's a little thing or if I need to call my husband to implement the backup plan. Even the little stuff makes life easier, like when I'm heading to the grocery store and can e-mail him to let me know if he needs something he forgot to put on the list.

I'm excited because my new car has a built-in handsfree thing. I'm not actually a big cellphone user (prefer BB), and I HATE doing calls while driving, but when it can't be avoided, at least this feels safer than my earlier hold-phone-to-ear-with-shoulder-while-shifting-through-city-traffic approach. :-)

Posted by: laura33 | October 20, 2008 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Here's a good story about trying to parent in this "oh so connected world." See "Child's Play" at

http://writingfrontier.com/2008/09/08/childs-play/

Posted by: jheubusch | October 20, 2008 2:13 PM | Report abuse

I'm getting tired of the Child's Play spam.

Posted by: atb2 | October 20, 2008 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Our family is hopelessly out-of-date, I guess. I have a cell phone *only* because my employer requires and provides it. DH brings up his "cell phone issue" a couple of times a year - and I'll politely agree with him that it might be handy if he had one. Then nothing happens. He doesn't go get himself one, and I don't either. The boys haven't asked for them, so they don't have them either. And I'd expect them to lose the darn things within a day or two if they did have them.

Out-of-area extended family - DH and his sister talk on land-line phones at least a couple of times a day. I use work email to keep in touch with the one sister I'm close to. My parents phoned me last night (land lines again), but that's probably only the 2nd or 3rd time we've talked all year.

Our last-century existance doesn't seem to have any negative effects on any of our lives, so we aren't likely to change it.

Posted by: SueMc | October 20, 2008 2:59 PM | Report abuse

It felt out of control. It was especially difficult since it was the first time we left our daughter overnight with someone other than one of us!

YOUR MOTHER! Give me a break. She raised you? huh?

Get over your control freak self, atb!

Posted by: nonamehere | October 20, 2008 3:37 PM | Report abuse

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