The New Family Divide: How Can Technology Impact Family Time?

 by editorial team


Technology has been increasing at a fast pace since the late 1990’s and 2000’s, making it difficult for parents (and adults in general) to handle the challenges of changing technology in their workplaces and homes.

This increase in technology adds a new dynamic to parenting: challenging meaningful communication and strong relationships with our children. It can challenge our adult and family relationships as well.


Why does a family divide happen?

Family divides can happen when there is a breakdown in communication and connection among parents and children, or between adults. A breakdown in communication might involve dishonest, disrespectful, and distant (not being present) conversations, or simply having no conversation at all.

It can create innocent misunderstandings, distrust, and a feeling of distance between family members. When a breakdown in communication continues, the problem can snowball, furthering the distance between family members.


The difficulties in communication between working parents and their children

Working parents often have an obligation to work long hours away from home, resulting in “latchkey kids” that come home each day and spend time without parents present. During that time, it’s easy for children to spend their time playing video games, visiting social media sites, and checking in with their cell phones to connect with friends.

Technology such as cell phones and online gaming allows for children to be constantly connected to friends, making peers one of their largest influencers. In these cases, some children turn to friends for advice instead of their parents.


The difficulties for parents in mastering technology 

Technology is changing at a rapid pace and in order to master the latest technology, parents must continuously spend time learning new devices, apps, social media sites. For some parents, this becomes a real challenge. It can be difficult to balance family, work, household activities, and social calendars, let alone learning the latest technology. Therefore, mastering technology often falls by the wayside.

In addition, many parents (and adults in general) today were raised in a culture where technology was not as large a part of everyday life as it is today. There were no Smart Boards in classrooms, cell phones were novelties, and online gaming had not yet been invented. Some homes didn’t even have a computer.

The learning curve for parents and adults to learn and master technology has been steeper than it has been for children that grew up with computers, tablets, smart TVs, and cell phones at their fingertips.


Now parents can't monitor their children's communication

In the beginning, social media sites could easily be monitored by parents. It was common for parents to “friend” their children and monitor their online communication. Today, children are using social media platforms such as Snap Chat where messages disappear within seconds so that parents can’t see the messages stored on their child’s phone.

Some children create separate profiles that their parents aren’t aware of: one where they connect to family and friends, and one where they only connect with friends. Other common methods children use to avoid parent monitoring are deleting text messages or apps from their phones daily.


What are the effects of technology on the family divide?

Technology has increasingly changed our culture and family dynamics. It’s being used for education, social connections, digital music, video games, television, and in an increasing number of careers ranging from manufacturing to graphic design.

The rapid increase in technology started in the 1990’s, noted by the National Bureau of Economic Research in the following statement: “They [authors of NBER Working Paper No. 8359] find that in the first half of the 1990s, true technology grew at an annual rate of 1.2 percent, but this rate rose to 3.1 percent for the 1995-9 period.”

Fast forward to 2015, the Pew Research Center found 84% of adults in the U.S. use the internet.

The increased impact of technology on family time may cause family divides and have a long-lasting impact in the following ways: 

  • Decreased face-to-face communication. As children and parents become glued to various types of technology, it can result in decreased in-person communication and relationship building among family members.
  • Change in influencers. With friends being so accessible and children sharing less information with parents, children may turn to friends for advice instead of going to parents.
  • Distanced communication. It’s easy to become distracted by text messages and social media updates. When conversations between family members are constantly interrupted by technology, it may become difficult to “be in the moment.” This may cause children to share less information with parents as well.
  • Feeling unimportant. Many families, parents and children alike, bring technology to the dinner table and family events never taking a break from the online world. This habit may cause feelings of distance and unimportance among family members, conveying that technology and online friends are more important than communicating with family members uninterrupted.
  • Lack of strong relationships. When parents and children don’t connect face-to-face uninterrupted and fully present, it may result in weakened relationships with families and others.
  • Less comfort, trust, security, love. Weakened relationships may result in children feeling less comfort, trust, security, and love from parents.
  • Less opportunity to parent. Communication breakdowns could make it more difficult for parents to parent their children, offering advice, looking out for their safety, supervise their activities and friends, and teach children good behaviors and values. 



Technology use has been increasing quickly since the 2000’s, bringing new challenges for parents, adults, and families. This increase in technology may cause a divide among family members, making it more difficult for parents to connect with their children.

This wedge can challenge parents' ability to have face-to-face communication, influence, and instill in their children feelings of importance, trust, security, genuine connection, and love. Similar affects may be seen in adult relationships as well.

For more, check out: Tips to Protect Family Time from Technology



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