Australian families have turned to digital technology during COVID-19 lockdowns and social isolation to help them meet a wide range of needs, a new social research program has found.
Conducted by the Foundation and supported by Facebook, This Digital Home shares the stories, reflections and images from 21 households around the country, offering a unique picture of the day-to-day digital experience of staying connected during the pandemic.
The report offers intimate details of family life, as families open up about the role of technology in the home during this time: what worked, what didn’t and their expectations as they adjusted to the “new normal”.
This Digital Home aims to provide policymakers, organisations and parents a personal perspective on the issues and experiences of Australian families and their use of digital technology while in social isolation.
The data will provide recommendations on the future use of technology by Australian families and how this can be supported.
Lead researcher, Daniel Donahoo, said the families were sent questions about relationships, health and wellbeing, citizenship, and play and learning every five days over the survey period of three weeks.
“They could respond together or as individuals. They could respond with text or emojis, video or audio, photos and memes – however they best felt they could respond in a creative way to the relevant theme,” Daniel says.
Beyond the numbers, the stories in This Digital Home share the depth and breadth of family life as we see how our day-to-day experiences during lockdown and social isolation change attitudes and approaches to using technology, he says.
The findings are fascinating as well as revealing and show that families use technology in many ways.
“Digital technology connects us but can also isolate us. The households found they explored new and different ways beyond video calls to connect with extended family and friends as they managed isolation this year. We saw examples of games being played, concerts performed, and art created - all from digital homes.
“There is so much more to technology than screens.”
Technology helps families maintain and consolidate their relationships, to learn in formal and informal ways, to maintain their health and wellbeing, to play and have fun together, to relax and have downtime and to manage their health and fitness, Daniel says.
The survey also reveals that families are very aware of the impact technology has on their lives.
“Families told us that finding a balance is a constant challenge and not something they always achieve, but that cutting each other slack was important during times of lockdown,” Daniel says.
“Families don’t need to be told whether technology is having a positive or negative impact on their lives. They are more interested in how they can best use it and how it can be designed, managed and made available in ways that meet their values and needs, rather than work against them.”
The Foundation’s CEO Lesley Podesta said This Digital Home showed how Australian families have embraced digital technology.
“The report offers a rich and important source of inspiration and advice to policymakers, with voices from very diverse family settings across the country,” she says.
“Technology is a part of every child’s and parent’s life and the pandemic has brought it into sharp focus.”
Read the full report here.
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