Chapter 2: Ways of Understanding Families and Technology
In the chapter we discussed ways that families have been represented in television shows over the decades. These representations contribute to and reflect a social construction of family. Let’s take a more current view. Take a few minutes to look at the social media accounts, online news, information feeds, and other applications you visit most frequently. Considering the role of media in shaping our sense or construction of the family, what messages and images of families seem most prevalent?What about parenting? Or intimate (romantic couple) relationships? What social constructions of families are presented in our online worlds? Of parenting? Of intimate relationships?Consider your use of these accounts as a child and preteen. What collective messages might you have formed about families from your technology use?
When framing questions in new areas, researchers often begin with a well-known concept. Consider each of the following points that summarize some well-known arguments, stemming from theory, about families. For each one, add a question that a researcher might ask when framing the argument in relation to family technology use.
- The family serves functions to its members, itself, and society, and our interest is in aiding the successful completion of those functions. EXAMPLE RESPONSE: Family cohesion provides an emotional sense of connectedness through which each family member feels cared for and valued. What is the role of social media in fulfilling siblings’ sense of connectedness?
- The family serves as an open system — its members influence each other, and each member is influenced by external factors. It is dynamic and transactional, and thrives when it is flexible and yet demonstrates cohesion.
- Family members are all developing humans. The family itself is a developing unit. Those individual and collective changes also influence family functioning.
- Living in shifting contexts, families are particularly influenced by their settings, time, events, political conditions, and so on.
- The family — and its members — are social constructions. How they view themselves and how society views the family changes over time.
The article below is an excellent example of using Family Systems Theory as the basis for research on technology and the family (in this case, boundaries and social media):
After reviewing this article, see if you can find another piece of research that uses an extant family theory as the basis for its investigation. How might using research examples like this help us better understand technology’s role in family dynamics? How might they help us better understand the theory as it applies to families?
Identify at least three pieces of research on a similar theme related to families and technology. For example, families’ use of texting for communication, or parent-teen conflict over parental monitoring of screen time. Select research studies published within the last ten years. Examine the theoretical base for the research. Which family, parenting, or other theory is used? How do the studies compare with regard to theoretical base? Are any atheoretical, or do not state a theory? As a result of their efforts, do the authors propose any changes to existing family theory to address what technology offers to family life?