The writing is on the (Facebook) wall: more and more communication is moving online. And that may be good news for families: A recent study conducted by GfK finds that digital technology is changing the way families communicate across geographies as well as across generations. The survey was a joint effort between AARP, the country’s leading organization for older Americans, and Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing Communications unit.
Across the generations, online communication is widely seen as a helpful form of communication among family members, with majorities in each age group saying that digital technology improves both the quantity and quality of their communication with family members living far away. Even though online communication has been around for only a generation, it is already closing in on the telephone as the most commonly used mode of communication, especially among young people. All age groups say that staying in touch with distant friends and family is the top reason for using social networking sites, and more than half overall also use social networking sites to connect with friends and family members whom they do see on a regular basis.
Although more communication does not necessarily close the generation gap, sizable numbers say that going online actually helps them to better understand other family members or helps family members better understand them. At the same time, the survey finds that online “blocking” is also a two-way street: younger people are more likely to say they would like their families to communicate even more online, but neither the young nor the old want family members from another generation to have unlimited access to their online lives.