Families as They Really Are: How Digital Technologies are Changing the Way Families Live and Love. April 25-26, 2014, Miami, FL
Several presenters made summaries of their talks available for media reference. A conference program including all presenters, poster session details, and timetable are available here. Press release is here.
Friday, April 25
Parenting in the Age of Digital Technology: A National Survey (Keynote)
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-thani Professor of Communication and Director, Center on Media & Human Development, Northwestern University
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, smartphones and computers. This national survey of over 2300 parents of children from birth to age 8 suggests that it is the parents and their use of technology that sets the pattern for their children and that there are variations in technology use; parents who are heavy users of technology have children who are similarly heavy users of technology.
Family Ties 2.0
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.
Google Calendar Saved My Divorce…And Remarriage: Post-divorce Use of Technology
Lawrence Ganong & Marilyn Coleman
Professors, Human Development & Family Studies, University of Missouri
It is challenging to raise children when parents do not live together, and it is even harder when they don’t like each other. Can technology make co-parenting after divorce and remarriage easier . . . or does technology just make getting along with an ex even harder?
The Internet as Host to Donor-Shared Sibling Groups
1919 Reunion Professor of Sociology, Wellesley College, firstname.lastname@example.org
Margaret K. Nelson
Hepburn Professor of Sociology, Middlebury College
No one knows how many children are donor-conceived, although families who conceived children using the same anonymous donor are locating one another through websites designed to match children with their genetic half-siblings. Over 40,500 people have registered on the Donor Sibling Registry to search for their donor siblings.
Through a survey of 587 parents with donor-conceived children, we discovered that these families are organizing into social media groups (i.e., Facebook, Yahoo). These groups exist mainly on the Internet where families with no formal obligations to each other exchange photos and post milestones. Keeping track of photos and posts of half-siblings is a powerful experience and parents report feeling emotional ties to their children’s genetic relatives and their parents. The Internet is a space where strangers become relatives–illustrating that genetics can’t be ignored.
Published Related Papers:
1. Margaret K. Nelson, Rosanna Hertz, Wendy Kramer. “Making Sense of Donors and Donor Siblings” Contemporary Perspectives in Family Research, 2013. Vol. 13: 1-42. Blair and Claster (editors); U.K.: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
2. Rosanna Hertz, Margaret K. Nelson and Wendy Kramer. “Donor Conceived Offspring Conceive of the Donor: The Relevance of Age, Awareness, and Family Structure.” 2013. Social Science and Medicine. (Volume 86): 52-65.
3. Rosanna Hertz and Jane Mattes. “Donor Siblings or Genetic Strangers: New Families, Clans and the Internet.” 2011. Journal of Family Issues. ( Vol. 32, Issue 9): 1129 –1155.
4. Rosanna Hertz. “Turning Strangers into Kin: Half-Siblings and Anonymous Donors.” 2009. Pp. 156-174 in Monitoring Families. Edited by Margaret K. Nelson and Anita Ilta Garey. Nashville: Vanderbilt University.
Aging in Place with New Technologies
Principal Analyst, Aging in Place Technology Watch
Technology can help families keeping aging relatives at home. Today there are devices to track medication and Alzheimer’s wandering, activity — or inactivity — in the house, falls and real-time health information. With mobile push-button personal emergency response systems (PERS), and GPS location tracking, you can monitor parents or aging friends at home, or while they play golf or go on long walks.
“We’ve entered the era of low-cost, miniaturized, technological capabilities that enable smarter caregiving and greater independence,” says Laurie Orlov, an aging-in-place technology analyst. It’s currently a $2 billion industry, and Orlov expects it to rise to $30 billion by 2020. http://www.ageinplacetech.com/page/about
Untangling the Web: The Internet’s Transformative Impact on Adoption
President, Donaldson Adoption Institute
The Internet – and, in particular, social media – are having profound, systemic and permanent effects on adoption in the United States and beyond. More and more families are being formed through the use of the Internet in a variety of unprecedented (and untested and unregulated) ways, while birth relatives separated by adoption are reconnecting at an unprecedented pace.
In this presentation, based on new research by the Donaldson Adoption Institute, DAI President Adam Pertman explains the impact on millions of people as the era of “closed adoption” comes to an end as a consequence of the internet, which is also providing valuable resources for finding homes for children with special needs; for enabling first/birth mothers to the children they relinquished and to each other; for facilitating search and reunion, including by children without their parents’ knowledge; and for a host of unethical practices, such as enticing pregnant women to place their babies for adoption.
New Technologies and Family Health
How can games, home media and digital devices influence maternal and child health, and children’s well-being and behavior?
Home Media & Cell Phone Influences on Children’s School Achievement & Behavior
Professor & Director, Maternal & Child Health Program
School of Public Health, University of Maryland
Parents, pediatricians, and educators are concerned about excessive screen time leading to increased isolation from peers, increased aggressive behavior, and neglect of schoolwork. Because of the rapidity of social change, very little research has been conducted on how using computers, the Internet, and cellphone, compared with video gaming and television viewing, may affect children’s health and well-being. The objective of this presentation is to describe the use of computers for study and gaming, the Internet for web sites and e-mail, and text messaging during the 2000s. The presentation examines the association between media use and children’s achievement and behavior and considers some ways children can benefit from these tools.
Cell Phones as Windows into At-Risk Parenting
Jennifer Burke Lefever
Research Assistant Professor of Psychology & Associate Director Center for Children & Families, University of Notre Dame
Dr. Burke Lefever will describe her use of cell phones for research and intervention with at-risk mothers of young children over the past 15 years. Cell phones can capture frequent data about parenting practices, keep mothers engaged in interventions and research, increase cost-effective communication between mothers and service providers, and encourage mothers to practice and generalize newly-acquired skills. A brief discussion of the practical issues related to using cell phones in research will be included.
Texting as a Valuable Tool for Maternal & Child Health
CEO, Healthy Start Coalition, Miami
Text messaging provides an opportunity to address health inequalities for populations at the highest risk for poor health outcomes – low-income and young women, particularly those who identify as Hispanic or African-American. Learn how to utilize text messaging to share critical health and safety information through the largest mobile health service, Text4baby.
Wellness in Your Hands: Online Games to Promote Individual and Family Well-Being
Isaac Prilleltensky, Dean and Professor, School of Education and Human Development, University of Miami email@example.com
Ora Prilleltensky, former Director of the Human and Social Development Program firstname.lastname@example.org
Samantha Dietz, Assistant Scientist, Wellness in Your Hands Project, Office of the Dean School of Education and Human Development, University of Miami email@example.com
The presenters will discuss the feasibility results of a piloted online community of Wellness in Your Hands (WYH), a multi-player virtual world designed to promote wellness. Based on state of the art knowledge and technologies in the fields of computer science and health promotion, WYH incorporated: (1) a virtual character self (i.e. avatar), (2) video segments with actors depicting real-world situations, (3) research-based principles of health behavior change taught through mini-games, (4) engaging and artistic means of communication, and (5) a social world. The aim of this unique program was to help users achieve positive outcomes in six I COPPE life domains of Interpersonal, Community, Occupational, Physical, Psychological, and Economic well-being. Animated coaching characters representing research-based principles of BET I CAN (Behaviors, Emotions, Thoughts, Interactions, Context, Awareness and, Next steps), prompted users to play and learn about research-based health promotion skills and strategies to improve their well-being in the I COPPE domains.
Saturday, April 26
Dating and Mating in the Digital Age: Relationships and Technology in the Modern Era (Keynote)
Senior Researcher, Pew Internet & American Life Project
Pew Research Center, Washington DC
As technology because more prevalent, it has become more deeply embedded in even the most intimate and human parts of our lives – our relationships. This talk examines how digital technology mediates (or not) how we meet our spouses and committed partners. It also looks at how technology like the internet and mobile phones serve 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.
Making and Maintaining Relationships
From online dating controversies to digital love letters, how have new media influenced the way intimate relationships are shaped and held together?
Gendered Interactions in Online Dating
Associate Professor of Sociology
University of Texas, Austin
Online dating platforms reduce many of the social and geographic barriers that exist in traditional dating settings, such as schools, work, and neighborhood. In this study, we examined whether gender norms and preferences for more ‘socially desirable partners’ benefit men and create a dating disadvantage for women in the earliest stages of dating. We tested this with six months of online dating data from a mid-sized southwestern city in the USA (8259 men and 6274 women). We found that both men and women tended to send messages to those mating candidates that possessed the most socially desirable socio-demographic characteristics (age, height, education, race, etc.), regardless of their own social desirability. We also found that men and women who made first contacts connected with more desirable partners than those who waited to be asked. Still, women are four times less likely to send messages than men. We concluded that socioeconomic similarities in longer-term unions result, in part, from relationship termination (i.e., non-reciprocity) rather than initial preferences for similar partners.
Kreager, Derek A., Shannon E. Cavanagh, John Yen, and Mo Yu. 2014. “’Where Have All the Good Men Gone?’ Gendered Interactions in Online Dating.” Journal of Marriage and Family 76(2):387-410.
Love Letters Lost? Gender and the Preservation of Digital & Paper Communication from Romantic Relationships
Professor of Sociology Whitman College
Investigating the format (handwritten or digital), storage location, and frequency of revisiting of a saved set of love letters sheds light on how mediated communication may or may not present a new kind of meaning-making process for cherished mementos of a romantic relationship. The primary question guiding this research is: How and why do people attach different meaning to digital or handwritten communications as mementos of a romantic relationship? More specifically, since relationship communication and the preservation of kinship mementos have been shown to be gendered processes, I examine whether men and women differ in the ways they interpret meanings attached to these items as nostalgic memory objects, and in views towards the increase in digital communication in relationships. Quantitative and qualitative results of a 618 person survey reveal that men and women are similar in their use of love letters as nostalgic items, with both men and women saving and intentionally revisiting handwritten letters, cards, and notes more than digitally saved emails, texting conversations, captured snapchats, or Facebook messages, and doing so for similar reasons. Men more frequently than women, however, revisit a cherished saved communication, are more likely to physically display (rather than store) this communication, more likely to store it on email or a computer, and more likely to include practical reasons such as monetary expense, paper use, or handwriting challenges, for why handwritten communication is fading from romantic relationship communication practices generally.
Breaching and Breaking Relationships: Tech Walls and Windows
How are online abuse, exclusion, gaming, pornography, and device overuse adversely affecting couples and families? How are clinicians treating these issues?
From Internet Infidelity to Online Gaming: Digital Technologies and Couples Issues
Associate Professor, Director MFT Program University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Current technology and new media reintroduces couples to age-old issues in relationship formation and maintenance, as well as introduces couple’s new issues. Issues emerging in relationships related to technology and new media include but are not limited to: how the couple has organized to spend time with one another, how power is experienced in the relationship, and how couples handle the idiosyncrasies around each partner’s usage of technology and new media. This presentation will introduce attendees to the Couple and Family Technology Framework, the first multi-theoretical model to delineate the impact of technology on couple and family relationships.
Technology and Teen Dating Violence and Abuse
Senior Fellow, Urban Institute – Justice Policy Center
One in four dating teens is abused or harassed online or through cellphones by their dating partners. Social networking sites, texts, and e-mails have given abusers tools to control, degrade, and frighten their partners, even when apart and at all times of day and night. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are more vulnerable to digital abuse and harassment compared to heterosexual youth, and female and transgender youth are more vulnerable to this type of abuse than male youth.
Media Savvy Workshop * Friday, April 25
Translating & Publicizing Research for Public Consumption: A Journalist’s Perspective
Kristal Brent Zook
Associate Professor of Journalism, Media Studies & Public Relations, Hofstra University
No matter how brilliant your ideas are it’s not easy to sell them to newspapers, magazines, and online outlets unless you understand a few basic rules about journalism. This talk will cover what editors look for in articles and essays; how to write for a mainstream audience; how to understand news hooks and angles; and the all-important pitch email. Television producers at broadcast and cable outlets also use these same rules and, in fact, often come up with segment ideas based on the latest, must-read article that everyone’s clicking about.
Social Change through Micro-Activism
Associate Professor of Political Science California Lutheran University
In this presentation, I discuss how social media applications provide opportunities to further social change through micro-activism. Differing types of network structures evident in Facebook and Twitter allow individuals to play an unprecedented role in the process of framing social policy. By sharing articles, videos, research studies and images on social media, individuals can serve as important nodes within broader communities. The challenge for organizations like CCF is to both foster these communities and to link them to other communities of interest.
The Council on Contemporary Families is a non-profit, non-partisan organization of family researchers, mental health and social practitioners, and clinicians dedicated to providing the press and public with the latest research and best practice findings about American families. It was founded in 1996 and is based at the University of Miami School of Education and Human Development
For more information, or to receive fact sheets and briefing papers from the Council, contact Stephanie Coontz, Co-Chair and Director of Research and Public Education of CCF and Professor of History and Family Studies at The Evergreen State College. firstname.lastname@example.org; 360-352-8117.