Skip to comments.That Parent-Child Conversation Is Becoming Instant, and Online
Posted on 01/03/2004 5:00:23 AM PST by leadpencil1
Nina Gordon types out an instant message and sends it. The data travels some 500 miles, from the computer in her living room in Queens to America Online's servers in Northern Virginia, and then to her son Schuyler's computer, which just happens to be in the next room about 20 feet away from where she is sitting.
you hungry for dinner?
After a little online banter over dining options, her son, a 17-year-old with a wicked sense of humor and no shortage of attitude, sends his request:
an insty pizza and a beer
don't push your luck, comes the reply.
Instant messaging, long a part of teenagers' lives, is working its way into the broader fabric of the American family. The technology "has really grown up in the last 18 months," said Michael Gartenberg, vice president and research director at Jupiter Research. "It's certainly not just for kids anymore."
Almost three-quarters of all teenagers with online access use instant messaging and about half of all adults have tried the services, surveys show. Adults, who generally began using the services from AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo to stay in touch with co-workers during the day, Mr. Gartenberg said, are saying "this stuff I'm using for work is actually useful in my personal life as well."
Use among adults has grown to include friends and far-flung family members, particularly children away at college. AOL, which provides the most popular service, reports that more than one billion instant messages each day flow through its networks.
And now, as families own more than one computer, the machines spread beyond the den and home networks relying on wireless connections become increasingly popular, instant messaging is taking root within the home itself.
Although it might seem lazy or silly to send electronic messages instead of getting out of a chair and walking into the next room, some psychologists say that the role of the technology within families can be remarkably positive. In many cases, they say, the messages are helping to break down the interpersonal barriers that often prevent open communication.
"Conversation between parents and teenagers could be highly emotional and not necessarily productive," said Elisheva F. Gross, a psychology researcher at the Children's Digital Media Center at the University of California at Los Angeles. When young people are online, however, "it's their turf," she said. "It may be a way for parents to communicate in a language and in a space that their children are more comfortable with."
Teenagers already use online communications to take on difficult topics with one another, said Katelyn McKenna, a research assistant professor in psychology at New York University. Preliminary results from a study she conducted last year, she said, suggest that "they are able to talk with one another about issues that bother them more readily online than when they are talking face to face."
Lissa Parsonnet said that her daughter, Dorrie, is sometimes more open to talking with her and her husband online about difficult subjects, like conflicts with friends, than in person.
"She talks to us as if we're people, not parents," she said.
Ms. Parsonnet, a psychotherapist, said that the online back channel strips away some of the parts of face-to-face communication that complicate matters: "They don't see your face turning red," she said. "They don't see you turning cross all the things that will shut them up immediately."
Both instant messages and e-mail messages can help smooth things over after a fight, said Nora Gross, a 17-year-old in Manhattan who said that electronic communications had helped strengthen her relationship with her father. "I can remember a few times when we've had little blowups and sent apology letters over e-mail," she said. "We're both writers, so I guess it's easier for us to put our feelings into words through text."
While even quicker than e-mail, instant messages also have the advantage of not actually being instant, Ms. Parsonnet said, because the medium at least gives the user time to compose his or her thoughts and comments before hitting the button.
"You know all the times you wish you'd counted to 10 before you said something?" she said with a laugh. With instant messages, she said, "You have a built-in counting-to-10."
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On the plus side, I talk to my kids when they get home from school, tell my wife when I am leaving the office, and in general, stay in touch or stay available to people I care about or work with (two different things for sure) even though I am not physically present.
BTW, did you see the great pics from the party!
By the way, one need not be an AOL subscriber (I hate AOL as well) to use AOL's IM product.
Exactly. The pop-up and the accompanying sound is an interruption and an annoyance.
I can see the attraction they hold for kids though. When I was their age, I had a phone growing out of my ear. If I was a kid now, I'd have a phone, a pager, and multiple IM windows open at the same time.
Yes, I did, you photogenic thing, you...
IMO,it would be sad if it was the only way you talked to you kids (or whoever), but IM chat in many cases is conversation that would not be taking place otherwise which makes it incremental, which is a good thing.
Pardon me if I'm somewhat skeptical of this claim. The best interpersonal communication requires eye contact.
Agreed. See post 9.
This is nuts! If these people had started out talking to their children and being honest with them they wouldn't have to talk "openly" with them through the computer.
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