Most households have the internet and cell phones and use them actively. These are family technologies, as almost all married families with children are now internet and cell phone users. Their proportion of use is much higher than that of singles, single-person households and even married couples without children. Despite fears that technology use might pull families apart, American families still lead connected lives, and the more people in their households, the more coordination and communication they need. Where a two-person household (married couple or single mom with child) has only two relationships to coordinate (one in each direction), a four-person household (mother, father, and two children) has twelve relationships to coordinate. Contrary to the impression that internet use is a yuppie activity—singles and married couples without children—the married families with children are the most active internet users.
Spouses in the United States talk to each other through phones—cell phones and landlines— which are more intimate media than text-oriented computers. Rather than being isolated in their two-job work lives and their frequent child minding, spouses use old-fashioned landline phones and new cell phone and internet media to keep in frequent touch. About half of the respondents recognize the role that new media have played in increasing family communication, while about half haven’t noticed much difference; only a small percentage think that the internet and cell phones have actually decreased family contact.
To the extent that they have an opinion about new media tools, Americans tend to be optimistic about their impact: one-quarter say their family is closer because of the internet and cell phones, more than twice as many who say they have grown apart.