Information and communication technology have both positive and negative effects on family relationships

New information and communication technology (ICT) can facilitate communication within families but may also displace face-to-face communication and intimacy.

Research helps to understand the impact of technology on people’s well-being as well as relationships between people and the whole family.

The aims of this systematic review were to investigate what positive and negative relationship outcomes are associated with ICT use in families, and whether and how the outcomes differ depending on relationship type (romantic relationship, parent–child relationship, or sibling).

The review included studies in English published in 2009–2019, which examined the effects of communication technology on family relationships with quantitative data.

70 peer-reviewed articles were selected. Articles were categorized into four categories according to the use of the technology:

  • personal use
  • personal use in the presence of a family member (technoference)
  • communication between family members
  • co-use with family members.

Personal use and technoference were mostly related to negative outcomes due to, for example, displaced attention and more frequent conflicts. Romantic partners were especially strongly negatively affected displaying stressors unique to romantic relationships, such as infidelity. By contrast, communication and co-use showed mostly positive effects across all relationship types.

In particular, communication media resembling face-to-face interaction were strongly associated with positive outcomes. The study concludes that ICT impacts family relations in different ways, depending on both the type of relationship and type of ICT use. Personal ICT use tends to weaken both parenting and romantic relationships in ways that can partly be mitigated by co-use and communication.

Read more

Tammisalo K, Rotkirch A. Effects of information and communication technology on the quality of family relationships: A systematic review. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. May 2022.