Tensions and Technology Use in Families with Young Children

Student thesis: Master Thesis and HD Thesis

  • Mette Hyllested Larsen
  • Camilla Mejlby Hansen
  • Katarina Leci Sakacova

Because technology not only brings advantages but also disadvantages in the daily lives of families, we decided to focus on the tensions related to technology use. More specifically, we wanted to study tensions related to technology use in co-located families with young children. Existing studies have investigated the topic, but they did not seem to focus only on the tensions related to technology use nor families with children that are 12 years or younger. We made two studies, the second article being based off the first one’s results.

The first article used an empirical field study with 4 families with children under 12 to gather in-depth knowledge about the tensions occurring due to their technology use. It attempted to answer the following research question:

“How are the relationships in families with young children affected by tensions caused by their technology use?”

The field study included a self-reporting diary approach and semi-structured interviews to support the data. We used open coding to categorise sources of tensions guided by existing literature about tensions related to technology use. We found 6 sources of tensions with varying amounts of subcategories and visualised which intra-family relationships we found to be affected by which sources of tensions. In the discussion, we used family theory literature to discuss what technology (use)’s role was in the identified sources of tensions as some sources of tensions might be explainable without technology playing an important role. We found most sources of tensions could be explained by family theory, where technology acted as a mediator of stress and tensions rather than creating the sources of tensions we identified. Technology generally had a smaller role in these sources of tensions, but two sources of tensions, however, were found to be directly connected to technology use.

The second article challenged the two sources of tensions identified in the first article to be caused by technology use: Absorption and Addiction. The study used a prototype to challenge the participant families’ phone use regarding Absorption and Addiction. The prototype was made with provocative design and designed to give the participants a forced choice between using or not using their phones when they were forcefully “locked” for a set amount of time. When the phones were locked, the participants were faced with another choice: using the unlock code and negatively affect an animated dog’s mood or waiting for the timer to expire. We conducted a field study with the prototype in 3 families lasting 7-11 days for each family, supported by in-depth interviews after the field study. In connection to Absorption we found that by using the system, it was possible to interrupt absorption. In connection to Addiction we found that when the family members’ access to their smartphones was limited, it reduced their perceived addiction. Furthermore, we found that planned breaks away from technology had positive effects on their family life and the relationship between the parents as a couple.
Publication date2018
Number of pages26
ID: 280924347