According to a study by coca-cola (Coca-Cola Happiness Barometer May 2010: http://openhappiness.digitalnewsagency.com) the greatest source of happiness is human rather than virtual interaction. It goes on to specify that real world contact with family and partners provides a greater source of joy for 77% of respondents than virtual alternatives. The study investigated 16 countries (of which Australia was not one of them), and found that the top five happiest countries are:
4. South Africa and
Catching up with loved ones in the evening rated highly for 39%, and eating with the family was also considered a source of pleasure for 22% of surveyed respondents. So what does this actually mean? While we may prefer to spend face-to-face time together, this does not necessarily translate into actual time spent together. In a report cited in theage.com.au in April 21, 2009, it was claimed that 22% of Australian families eat together four times or less per week. This report was prepared for Continental in 2008 (Because Family Mealtimes Matter). This study found that 60% of families always, or often, have the TV on during meals.
Perhaps all the families surveyed had teenagers! Teens have a natural inclination to separate from the family and pursue their own lives – it is a biological and developmental imperative (and one that I most avidly remember acting out of). Nevertheless, there is a desire for togetherness, and the family meal helps facilitate this (even if dad is checking his blackberry for messages from the office, mum is checking her emails, and the kids are either on facebook giving the family meal a review, or texting friends about meeting up after dinner, while at the table).
It would appear that we are spending more time with online media (ACMA – Trends in media use by children and young people …). Potentially more so now, given that our mobile devices are capable of providing access to a variety of media: from TV programs, music, YouTube, to facebook and twitter (provided you have a smart phone)! How are we spending our time? If technology is making our lives easier, and enabling us to work from home – does that mean we are doing more work at home? How much time do we spend with our families? It certainly feels like there is not enough hours in the day – but there is research that states that we are actually spending more time with our children than our parents before us (Surprisingly, time spent with family has grown).
There is much contradictory information – and not enough about what is happening in Australian families. This is why I am attempting to make a difference, by addressing the knowledge gap. I am trying to find out how families are interacting together.