The Council on Contemporary Families held its 17th Annual Conference, Families as They Really Are: How Digital Technologies are Changing the Way Families Live and Love, on April 25-26, 2014 at the University of Miami. Some of the questions examined at this conference included:
- Have families become more connected or disconnected?
- Is instant access to online pornography such as TubeV good or bad for couples?
- Does social media help or hurt divorces?
- Does meeting a future spouse online bode well or ill for relationships?
- Can playing online games make us healthier or sicker?
The two-day conference featured two keynote addresses, four panels, and a workshop, all addressing how technologies are impacting contemporary family life.
Ellen Wartella, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-thani Professor of Communication and Director, Center on Media & Human Development, Northwestern University shared results from a national survey of over 2300 parents of children from birth to age 8 in her Keynote address, Parenting in the Age of Digital Technology. “Popular media presentations of young children’s uses of technology present an image of parent’s responding to the constant pleas from their preschoolers to play with the parent’s IPads, Smart Phones and computers. Our survey suggests that it is the parents and their use of technology that sets the pattern for their children.” Wartella discussed the enormous variety in the relationship between parents’ technology use and their children’s behavior.
Amanda Lenhart, Senior Researcher with Pew Internet & American Life Project, Pew Research Center, in Washington DC, provided fresh perspective through her Keynote address, Dating & Mating in the Digital Age: Relationships and Technology in the Modern Era, drawing from her February 2014 study, Couples, the Internet, and Social Media. “As technology becomes more prevalent, it has become more deeply embedded in even the most intimate and human parts of our lives – our relationships,” said Lenhart. Her talk examinde how digital technology mediates (or not) how we meet our spouses and committed partners. She also reported on how technology–like the internet and mobile phones–serves as both a source of tension and greater intimacy for couples, on top of its more basic roles within relationships around communication and life logistics.
Family Ties 2.0 (Friday 4/25)
How have digital technologies affected family structure, communications and aging? This panel will examine how the internet has transformed the adoption process, how connections are made between egg and sperm donor sibling groups, “aging in place” with new devices, and post-divorce family communication.
New Technologies & Family Health (Friday 4/25)
How can games home media and digital devices influence maternal and child health, and children’s well-being and behavior?
Making & Maintaining Relationships (Saturday 4/26)
From online dating controversies to digital love letters, how have new media influenced the way intimate relationships are shaped and held together?
Breaching & Breaking Relationships: Tech Walls & Windows (Saturday 4/26)
How are online abuse, exclusion, gaming, pornography, and device overuse adversely affecting couples and families? How are clinicians treating these issues?
Media Savvy Workshop: Technologies for Reaching a Broad Audience (Friday 4/25)
A conference workshop—with hands-on activities—will include expert tips from leaders in the field on writing opinion pieces and magazine articles, academic blogging, translating and publicizing academic work from a journalist’s perspective, social change through micro-activism and policy change.
Detailed Presentation Summaries and PowerPoints
Please click here to access detailed summaries of each conference presentation, as well as presenters’ slides of their presentation.