Understanding the Relationship between Family Dynamics and Internet Use in Britain
Posted: 19 Sep 2011
Date Written: September 19, 2011
In recent years, there has been a growing interest in how uptake and use of the Internet by individuals is influenced by other members of the same household. Nevertheless, the relationships between the use of the Internet by young people and adults in the same household are complex, multifaceted and underexplored (Selwyn 2004). The majority of research has focused on how parents have influenced their child’s use of the Internet. Yet given the current interest in family learning and generational differences in Internet use, the opposite relationship (i.e., how children may be influencing parents use of the Internet) is likely to be just as important.
Indeed, there are some tentative indications that this relationship is important to explore. In Britain, individuals over 18 who have children in the household are more likely to use the Internet (Helsper and Eynon 2010). There is also some evidence that parental Internet use, skills and their understanding of the Internet has become closer to that of their children (Livingstone et al, in press). This may be for a number of reasons. For example, it is well documented that parents often purchase the Internet in their homes to support their child’s education. Thus, simply having home access may encourage parents to use the Internet more frequently for a wider range of purposes. Secondly, adults could be supported by their children in using the Internet. Indeed, some authors have highlighted that young people can sometimes (although not always effectively) support parents uses of ICTs by improving their parents skills in this domain (e.g. Holloway and Valentine 2003). Finally, adults may also use the Internet to encourage interaction and dialogue with their children (Aarsand, 2007) thus using it more extensively than they otherwise would.
The existing research offers a better understanding of the relationships between parents’ digital inclusion and children’s use of the Internet. However, the extent to which having children in the household is related to how an adult Internet user engages with the Internet for a range of activities remains an under researched area.
Using data from the 2009 and 2011 Oxford Internet Surveys (OxIS) which contain information on how the British population access and use the Internet and the EU Kids Online II Survey which is a survey of 25,000 Internet using children and their parents across Europe, this paper aims to better understand the links between children and adults’ use of the Internet within the same household. Specifically, the paper will address two questions: 1) how significant are child / parent dynamic s compared to other factors (e.g. social capital, civic engagement) in understanding adults’ engagement with the Internet? 2) To what extent do the characteristics of the child and the parent determine parental engagement with the Internet?
The analysis will provide policy makers and practitioners with an informed understanding of the relationships between adult and child Internet use. The findings may assist in the development of policies and practices that seek to support digital inclusion and provide a useful quantitative framework for other qualitative research in this area.
Keywords: Internet use, family, parents
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