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It appears that family dinners, game nights and other joint activities are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Instead, more people are spending time with their computers, according to the Center for Digital Future at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California.
The eighth annual edition of the "Surveying the Digital Future" report shows that 28 per cent of Americans stated that being connected to the Internet has caused them to spend less time with their family members. This is a big jump from the 2006 report from the Center of Digital Future, as it is also known, in which 11 per cent said the same thing.
"In the last two decades, there has been an erosion in family dinners together that take place without gadgets," said Michael Gilbert, a senior fellow at the center who was quoted in a June 18 HealthDay News website article. "That's reduced cohesion, reduced communication."
The Center of Digital Future found in 2005 that Americans said they spent about 26 hours together a month as a family. The latest survey, which involved contacting 2,000 U.S. households, showed that number has fallen to slightly less than 18 hours a month.
The recent survey's numbers are unfortunate, but, in some ways, not surprising. A March 10, 2008 Boston Globe story featured information from a Stanford Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society report. The report said that people who did not go online during a random six-hour period of a given day spent twice as much time, on average, with their family than those who surfed the Internet for an hour or more.
According to the Center for Digital Future, Internet users surf for an average of 17 hours per week. Gilbert points out that unlike TV, the Internet is a "one-on-one" activity. It generally does not draw people together, such as broadcasts of the Moon landing, the Olympics, or the finale of Seinfeld have done.
However, Gilbert and Dr. Harold Koplewicz, director of the Child Study Center at New York University Langone Medical Center, caution against declaring the Internet evil. "Most people think of the Internet and our digital future as boundless and I do, too," Gilbert was quoted as saying in a June 15 Associated Press article.
Koplewicz noted the Internet can have many benefits, especially for young people. He said it is a place where they can learn, play and socialize.
"It may look as though they're wasting time, but spending time online is essential," Koplewicz was quoted as saying in the HealthDay News article. "Kids can participate in culture and connect with others with similar interests."
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