Thanks to the Internet, Americans are increasingly reporting erosion of face-to-face family time, increased feelings of being ignored by family members using the Web, and growing concerns that children are spending too much time online.
These are the findings of a study conducted by researchers at the Center for the Digital Future at the USC Annenberg School for Communication.
The study has shown that the percentage of people, who say they spend less time with household members since being connected to the Internet at home, had nearly tripled from 11 percent in 2006 to 28 percent in 2008.
The researchers say that total hours devoted to family socializing have decreased sharply over this three-year period.
According to them, reports of feeling ignored, at least sometimes, by family members using the Internet also grew by 40 percent over the same period.
Michael Gilbert, author of The Disposable Male and a senior fellow at the Center, says that diminishing family time coincides with the explosive growth of social networks and the importance people place on them, a trend first reported in the Center's 2007 surveys.
These reduced family time Internet patterns apply across most demographic categories, although higher income households may be suffering greater family time erosion: 35 percent report a reduction in face-to-face time.
Women report being ignored by a family Internet user more often, say the researchers.
Gilbert, who focuses on family and gender issues, thinks this may reflect the varying emphasis the sexes place on relationships, the balance women appear to maintain in their home computer use, or the persistent call of their other family and household responsibilities.
Agreeing that these trends may play havoc with people's personal boundaries, he said: "The family is our social foundation, society's basic building block. We need to guard its health in what otherwise seems to be a boundless digital future."