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iFamily: Internet and Social Media Technology in the Family Context


  • Authors’ Note: Amanda L. Williams is a Doctoral Student, and Michael J. Merten, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Science at Oklahoma State University. Please address correspondence to Michael J. Merten, Department of Human Development and Family Science, Oklahoma State University, 700 N. Greenwood Ave., Tulsa, OK, 74106; e-mail: This research uses data from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center that examines the social impact of the internet. It is part of the Pew Research Center and is funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts. The Project bears no responsibility for the interpretations presented or conclusions reached based on analysis of the data. More information about the Project can be found on the Pew Internet website (


The internet has become a major research focus across disciplines and studies report both risks and benefits of use. However, less research explores family technology dynamics from an ecological perspective and how internet use occurring within and outside the family microsystem relates to individual and family well-being. This study explores parents’ and adolescents’ use of the internet and other technology in terms of family connectedness and parent–child dynamics. Data are derived from the Pew Internet & American Life Project’s Networked Families 2008 surveys (n = 386) and Parents & Teens 2006 (n = 696). Results illustrate how social media technology has the potential to strengthen family bonds. In addition, how parents and adolescents negotiate the role of the internet in their families has implications for adolescent exposure to potential harm from outside the family system. Future directions are offered for exploring families and technology from a dynamic and multisystemic perspective.

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