Page last updated at 12:02 GMT, Monday, 20 October 2008 13:02 UK

Hi-tech brings families together

Family listening to radio announcement, PA
Technology is bringing people together in novel ways, says the report.

Technology is helping families stay in touch like never before, says a report.

Instead of driving people apart, mobile phones and the net are helping them maintain social ties, says the Pew Internet report.

Families are also among the keenest users of technology, the survey of 2,252 Americans revealed.

It found that using the net was often a social activity within families, with 51% of parents saying they browsed the web with their children.

"Some analysts have worried that new technologies hurt family togetherness, but we see that technology allows for new kinds of connectedness built around cell phones and the internet," said Tracy Kennedy of the University of Toronto who helped to write the Networked Families report.

Family and friends

The research looked at the differences in technology use between families with children and single adults, couples without children and adults who share a home but are not related.

It found that traditional so-called "nuclear" families were more likely to have more hi-tech gadgetry in their home than almost any other group it measured.

Multiple mobile phones were found in 89% of nuclear families and 66% had a high-speed net connection. The US national average for broadband is 52%.

It also found that 58% of this type of family were likely to have more than two computers in the home.

Many people use their mobile phone to keep in touch and maintain social ties with parents, siblings and children. Seventy percent of couples who both own a mobile use it every day to chat or say hello. In addition, it found, 42% of parents contact their children via their mobile every day.

This led to 53% of those questioned saying that new technologies had increased the quality of their contact with distant family members, while 47% said it improved interaction with those they live with.

The growing use of cellphones, computers and the net meant that families no longer gathered round the TV for shared experiences but this did not mean, said the report, that these communal times had vanished.

Instead it found that 52% of net users who live with their spouse and have children go online in the company of someone else several times a week.

For many, greater use of the net came at the expense of TV watching, with 25% saying they now spent less time watching television. Only 58% of 18-29 year olds said they watched TV every day.

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