Monday, April 28, 2008

Effects Of the Internet on Family Dynamics

Affects Of the Internet on Family Dynamics
American society is changing rapidly. Individuals do not speak to one another. They use text messaging via cell phone, instant messaging, or the internet to communicate to one another. This new style of computer-mediated communication has taken its toll on the traditional American family. Teens are no longer interested face-to-face communication with family members, resulting in a disconnection in the tradition family dynamic.
Affects Of the Internet on Family Conflict
The internet serves as a new point of conflict in families. Young adults are using their computer expertise to disjoint parental authority. In many instances,
“Families are social systems characterized by a hierarchy of authority. The introduction of the computer has the potential to change that hierarchy as the adolescent becomes the family expert on whom other family members rely for technical advice and guidance.” (Mesch, 2006, August, P. 483).
The imbalance that parents experience as a result of being guided by their children often results in conflict. These conflicts generally result when an adolescent ignores or rejects parental authority when they are using the internet. This is highlighted as, “Most of these conflicts generate from young individuals spending too much time on the internet.” (Mesch, 2006, August, P. 480). This signifies how teens’ use of the internet has shifted the normal conflict between families. Internet usage has manipulated conventional hierarchies of parents with power to adolescents with power.
Affects of the Internet on Family Time
As young teens begin to both do homework and socialize on the internet, family time is reduced. Parents are now confronted with a new competitor of their child’s time. Most parents find this new media creating a void in their family’s closeness. “In fact, parents and adolescents worry that internet use might have a negative effect on family communication and closeness based on family time diaries.” (Mesch, 2006, April, P. 124). In one study, participants were asked to document the time spent together while their child did not have access to the internet, then to document the time spent together while their child did have access to the internet. The findings of this study confirmed that less time was spent with family when teens had access to the internet (Mesch, 2006, April, P. 130).
Affects of the Internet on Family Cohesion
Now that families spend less time together the family cohesion is diminishing as well. Traditional family dinners and other bonding experiences are becoming less common as young individuals would prefer to be online than to partake in these activities. Additionally, teens generally are choosing to skip family bonding for socializing with others on the web. In fact, “Internet use for social purpose may expose adolescents to dangerous individuals and dangerous situations, including sexual harassment and victimization.” (Wahl, 2005, P. 282). Often time’s parents are aware of the dangers that lurk on the internet, and conflicts arise as these parents try to prevent certain types of internet usages (Mesch, 2006, April, P. 131). All of these components, in addition with lost time with family, negatively affects family cohesion.

Research Questions and Research Hypothesis:
RQ1: Does the internet create conflict in families?
RQ2: Does the internet reduce time spent together as a family?
RQ3: Does the internet negatively affect family cohesion?

Research hypothesis: I predict that internet usage among teens creates conflict, and reduces time and cohesion in families.

Possible Research Methods and Subject of study:

In this study, I would like to uncover how internet affects conventional family dynamic. To do this I would accept a willing participant family that currently did not have access to the internet in their primary residence. After gaining this participant family, I would first observe the family as a whole without the internet. I would note the time they spent together, the subject of their conflicts, and overall family cohesion. Secondly I would introduce access to the internet in the family’s home. After a period with the internet in the family’s home I would observe them again. I would note all of the same components and find the affects of the internet on this family.

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