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US nuclear family also technology family

world Updated: Oct 20, 2008 11:25 IST

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The typical American nuclear family is more likely than the rest of the population to own cellphones, use the Internet and have multiple computers at home, according to a survey released on Sunday.

The survey of 2,252 adults by the Pew Internet and American Life Project compared cell phone and Internet usage in traditional nuclear families -- a married couple with minor children -- with other households such as those of single adults, homes with unrelated adults, or couples without children.

It found that 89 per cent of traditional nuclear families own multiple cell phones and nearly half own three or more mobile devices.

Sixty-six percent of married-with-children households have a high-speed broadband Internet connection at home, the survey found, well above the national average for all households of 52 percent.

It said both spouses and at least one child go online in 65 percent of married-with-children households and 58 percent of married-with-children households contain two or more desktop or laptop computers.

"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, one of the authors of the "Networked Families" report.

"Family members touch base with each other frequently with their cell phones, and they use those phones to coordinate family life on the fly during their busy lives," she said.

The survey found that 42 percent of parents contact their child or children on a daily basis using a cell phone, making cell phones the most popular communications tool between parents and children.

It also found that going online was often a social activity. Fifty-percent of Internet users who live with a spouse and one or more children go online with another person at least a few times a week.

"Families are becoming networks," said Barry Wellman of the University of Toronto, another author of the study. "Each household member can be her own communications hub and that changes things inside and outside the household."

The survey found that television-watching was losing ground to Internet use.

Seventy-four percent of all adults said they watch TV nearly every day, but that figure fell to 58 percent among 18 to 29 year olds. Twenty-nine percent said they watch less TV because of the Internet.

As of 2005, 23 percent of US households were made up of married couples with minor children while 28 percent were made up of married couples without minor children.

Among the non-married, nine percent were single-parent households and 26 percent of households comprised just one person. Other arrangements accounted for the remaining 13 percent of households.

The survey was conducted between December 13, 2007 and January 13, 2008 and has a margin of error of plus or minus two per cent.