Social networks cutting into family time

Increasing use of social networks are making users less social with their families

Social networks like Facebook and Twitter are exploding in popularity, bringing people from all walks of life together online. At the same time though, overall Internet use keeping family members apart.

Forty-three percent of all online users are involved with a social networking site, and that's up from just 27% a year ago, according to a report released today by The Conference Board, a non-profit research association. The report also notes that more than half of those who use social networks log on at least once a day, and the majority log on several times a day.

The report also found increasing Facebook posts or Twitter tweets are being sent from work. While most social networkers log on to the sites from home, a full quarter are also checking the sites from their workplaces, notes the Consumer Internet Barometer, a Conference Board quarterly report based on a survey of some 10,000 U.S. households.

"Online social networks are more than just a fad among the younger generation," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center, in a statement. "They've become an integral part of our personal and professional lives. They're an effective way to keep in touch with people, connect with friends and family, and network with colleagues."

But another study out this week shows that while people are using social networks more to stay in touch with family and friends, the irony is that the Internet is diminishing the time that we actually spend with the people around us.

Researchers at the Annenberg Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California report that an increasing number of people say their use of the Internet, including social networking sites, is eroding the time they spend with their family.

The percentage of people who say they spend less time with family members because of the Internet nearly tripled from 11% in 2006 to 28% last year. Similarly, the Digital Future report also showed that in the same time period, the time family members spend together each month dropped from an average of 26 hours to 17.9 hours a month.

And the university's study, which surveyed about 2,000 American households, also showed that the number of people who reported feeling ignored, at least sometimes, by family members using the Internet grew by 40% over the same period.

Just this spring, a study released by Ohio State University showed that college students who use Facebook spend less time studying and have lower grades than students who don't use the popular social networking site.

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Sharon Gaudin

Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld
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