Elon University

The 2004 Survey: Prediction on families

Responses in reaction to the following statement were assembled from a select group of 1,286 Internet stakeholders in the fall 2004 Pew Internet & American Life Predictions Survey. The survey allowed respondents to select from the choices “agree,” “disagree” or “I challenge” the predictive statement. Some respondents chose to expand on their answer, writing an explanation of their position; many did not. Some respondents chose to identify themselves with each answer; many did not. We share some – not all – of the responses here. Workplaces of respondents whose reactions are listed below are attributed here only for the purpose of indicating a level of internet expertise; the statements reflect personal viewpoints and do not represent their companies’ or government agencies’ policies or positions. Some answers have been edited in order to share more respondents’ replies. Below is a selection of the many carefully considered responses to the following statement.

By 2014, as telework and home-schooling expand, the boundaries between work and leisure will diminish significantly. This will sharply alter everyday family dynamics.

Compiled reactions from the 1,286 respondents:
  56% of internet experts agreed
  17% disagreed
  9% challenged the prediction
  18% did not respond

Whoever suggested that homeschooling would increase because of the Internet, has never stayed at home with a child. The Venn diagram of telework and home-schooling shows two circles entirely without connection. – Moira Gunn, Tech Nation

That’s already happened. It’s all work. Even shopping. – Douglas Rushkoff, author/New York University Interactive Telecommunications Program

I guess this will mean there is a reason for four-person families to be living in all these mini-mansions. By 2014, they will need the space so they won’t kill each other! – Clare De Cleene, Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts

[It] already is [altering everyday family dynamics], as Wellman and NetLab expect to find in their current Connected Lives study. – Barry Wellman, University of Toronto

I would not be surprised to see a backlash as family dynamics suffer from the “on, all-the-time, syndrome.” – Jan Schaffer, J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism

I would revise and specify this prediction: By 2014, as convenience computing brings the internet into more moments and arenas of everyday life, the boundaries between work and leisure will diminish significantly. This will increase the power of corporate interests in determining how people frame the public and private arenas. This will also cause an overall increase in levels of stress and fatigue in the general workforce. – A. Markham, University of the Virgin Islands (previously University of Chicago)

Some of this is already happening: many workers now are “on duty” 24/7 – responding to emails, alerts, blackberries, and cell phones, no matter where they may be. For the office, this may increase productivity. For the home and family, this adds to stress and strain. But that is because, today, this “extra” duty usually comes on top of a regular 40-to-50-hour stint in the office. In the future, it will be possible for people to do their work from home, from the beach, from the back yard – and it will be theoretically possible to enhance home and family that way. Again, it’s not the technology that will decide this; it is our institutions and their rules. – Gary Bachula, Internet2

I believe people will learn to understand how their different identities – (home, work, others) are represented online and new tools will be developed to help people maintain healthy boundaries around work and leisure to maximize health. – Liz Rykert, Meta Strategies Inc.

I could not more strongly agree. I think that we are already seeing that the greatest change that the internet enables is a fluidity of task over space. There is a tradition in many professions (including my own) of flexible workdays and places. I suspect that this flexibility will increasingly affect all forms of knowledge work, and this will be felt most acutely in our social and familial organization. – A. Halavais, State University of New York at Buffalo

I see it in my family every day. Sure, it is anecdotal evidence, but it is powerful. – David Tewksbury, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

What we need to go along with this trend is a new definition of quality work – judged by outcome, not by time. Education needs a similar redefinition. – Christine Geith, Michigan State University

The boundaries between work and leisure will continue to diminish, but I don’t think they will change much more from where they are today. Most employers will want most employees on site most of the time. – Jonathan Band, partner, Morrison & Foerster LLP (law firm)

This has already happened. Everything is a hobby – half work, half leisure – it’s an unstoppable trend. People forced to be offline feel spiritless and lonely. We’re there. – Susan Crawford, policy analyst, Center for Democracy & Technology and a fellow with the Yale Law School Information Society Project

While I think the move toward telework has been slower than any one expected, the growth of home schooling has been faster. Every time I speak before the public, most of my questions center on the impact of these technologies on family life. People are concerned about and aware of these potential changes. For the most part, they are very nervous about a world where it is impossible to escape the office and where they face growing competition for their children’s attention. – Harry Jenkins, MIT

Many Americans (and I am as guilty of this as anyone) work too much and carry their stress home with them. It will become too easy for Americans to work and play at the same time, likely leading to some diminishing of both. – Brian Reich, internet strategist for Mindshare Interactive

Ten years ago, pundits were fascinated by a formal, official move to telecommuting — where offices would close down and people work from home. In fact, we have much more flexwork: partial telecommuting where people take work home for the evening or weekend or stay home “to get work done” and to avoid snowstorms (as I am doing today). The result is a contest for attention between family and work, with household members wondering when the telecommuter will look up from their screens and at them. Our research suggests that many corporate moves to telecommuting are driven by a desire to save on real estate costs — less building space to occupy. On the workers’ side, it often stems from a desire to avoid the stress and time waste of driving to work. – Barry Wellman, University of Toronto

The increase in connectivity between mobile devices will result in a new family dynamic that will re-expand the notion of family to include not only geographically displaced extended family relatives but also unrelated family members. Around-the-clock connection and automatic sharing of contact information beyond the immediate family members will foster digital tribes and a stronger sense of ”family.” – Scott Moore, Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation

The web is dramatically changing the way women in my generation are able to mother and work. The web is providing the tool that women needed to contribute at home and in the world. – Tiffany Shlain, Founder, The Webby Awards

My greatest hope is that telework will hit the federal government in a big way. There’s absolutely no need to have those huge headquarters operations located in Washington, D.C. It’s an expensive place to be, it’s a limited applicant pool for jobs, and it creates a huge ”sitting duck” for terrorists. Most of those operations could function beautifully scattered throughout the country, using workers in their homes and in telework centers, working virtually. In fact, 3 years ago, I moved from Washington, D.C., to Tucson, taking my job as departmental web manager at HUD with me. While there are many struggles – mostly overcoming people’s reluctance to work online – we have proven that this can work quite successfully. – Candi Harrison, web content manager, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Work will still be work, and leisure still will be not working. The places where they happen – especially work – will shift. It will be possible to move between the two more quickly, but the people who make work will know this and raise the productivity bar. It will still be a matter of personal choice whether one agrees to the work contract offered or not. The real change will be in the opportunity for individuals (small businesses) to dictate their own rules. The Internet causes power to disperse, in this case, to the people from the institutions. Of course institutions can attract power (the will of the people) but they must do so under news rules of engagement. – Mike Reilly, president, Hally Enterprises, Inc.

Many forces already conspire to alter family dynamics. I don’t see this as any more powerful than the divorce rate, single parents,two-income families, wildly fluctuating economy, rising gap between rich and poor, etc. – Peter W. Van Ness, Van Ness Group

This change to family dynamics can be very positive. Just as writing skills will become as important as they were early in American history, we can return to the home-centered work environment. When farms were the center of American life, families were an integral part of the workday. As we remove boundaries between work, personal and family life, families can grow closer and participate more with all aspects of life. This will impact education as well. Separate school systems and activities all day remove kids from the day-to-day activities and decisions about how Mom and Dad actually pay for things. Having them more involved will change the topics they are interested in and the perspective they bring to the classroom. – Mike Witherspoon, Connexxia

Of course, this is already happening for many of us. My work days begin online at 5:30 a.m.; I am out in the countryside on my bicycle by 8 a.m.; I am in the office by 10 a.m. both online and in face-to-face meetings; I am out of the office by 5 p.m.; and I am back at work online from home at 7 p.m. I teach my classes online from distant points. This semester alone, I will have taught classes (engaging students at least twice a day) while off at week-long conferences in Boston, Chicago, and Orlando. – Ray Schroeder, University of Illinois

The same segments that are today high-volume consumers and television and media-centered have already yielded most of their family dynamics, so this will not likely change for them. Another small segment that today is not highly-penetrated by media will see their family dynamics affected. – Dan Ness, MetaFacts

I would agree in that this mirrors our own family life. My wife and I work as consultants from home and we blend work and kid time as both require. However, I remember 40-60-hour-a-week jobs that required me/us to be on site as staff. I really don’t see that changing much at any time in the future. There are valid reasons tele-commuting has not taken off. What might change is the ability to see/reach family during work hours in ways that save time and absenteeism. You might be able to email your dry cleaner to drop your clothes in a box outside your house. Or have a little window open on your computer to watch your kid in daycare. But a lot of this is happening already. – Tim Slavin, ReachCustomersOnline.com

Home schooling is not going to expand by an order of magnitude, because most parents don’t want to do it, and some of those that do, can’t. So the kids are going to a physical school, even if they do a bunch of on-line stuff once the get there. And telework might increase, but in the next decade we’re still going to see most workers leaving their homes to go to work. They will get some hours or days to work from home, but their primary workplace will still be an outside location. The boundaries between work and leisure will be more threatened by the fact that people use their work-Internet access to do stuff that’s not work. We’ll see a major crackdown on how the Internet is used at work, now that the technology to monitor and block non-work activities is maturing. – Peter Eckart, Hull House Association

And the following are from predictors who chose to remain anonymous: [Workplaces of respondents whose reactions are listed below Harvard University, Internet2, Microsoft, RAND, SnapNames.com, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, U.S. Administration on Aging, University of Washington, Morino Institute, University of California at Berkeley, Media General, Carnegie Mellon, Geekcorps, University of Minnesota, U.S. Census Bureau, Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California, Umbria Communications, University of Georgia, Brandmarken Communications, Dutch National Research and Education Network, Resource Interactive, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Center for Rural Strategies and others.]

This is already happening. – Anonymous response from dozens of participants

We live in a world that is always on. I think this will be one of the most devastating consequences of technology.

I agree. I just started working from home and I can’t get away.

This will be true for a significant number of people, but only a tiny fraction of the overall population.

The boundaries between work and leisure have already been erased. Everyday family dynamics have already been changed.

Computers in the home mean work in the home, and Internet connections means demand for connection from home. Not a future scenario, but a current one. Family dynamics will be pushed by this – but will it be better or worse than the change that put 2 parents in to the workforce to make ends meet?

Over the next decade, families will need to increase work hours dramatically in order to keep up their standard of living. We will have moved from the one-wage-earner family to the two-wage-earner family to the multiple-wage-earners-with-multiple-jobs family. As a result, families will be increasingly scheduled, to the point where a family member will be working almost every hour of the day.

People work for social interchange. Kids go to school to learn to get along with their peers.

Already true today. Technology allows work time to expand to 7 days a week.

I believe this prediction is already coming to fruition. A survey would likely determine that most Americans check their work email from home. Laptops are packed with golf clubs and snorkels for family vacations; Blackberries and cell phones are commonplace on sidelines and in stands.

This is already underway, but the significant difference is that unlike the disruption it often causes today, people will better learn to live with and adapt to this seamless world.

As the basic organizing unit of human existence, I think it will be hard to change family dynamics. But could the diminished boundaries between work and leisure lead to more people choosing work that they love?

It’s happening. It is 9:39 p.m., and I am at home but I am doing my work email.

I agree, already few people leave work at work. People regularly check and respond to e-mail at 10 p.m. The ability to disengage completely has nearly evaporated.

Most people will discover that they want to get out of the house, and be involved with peers.

The boundaries between work and leisure have already blurred. I expect other social forces (e.g., traffic congestion) will encourage more telework (40% of a workweek), but I don’t see it as a replacement for face-to-face social interactions.

For some, but not for all. For others, it will simply allow the sweatshop to be moved into the home, and at decreased costs to the corporation.

No question about this. Major spike coming in “Internet widows/widowers”

The Blackberry is the first wave of this … people are already working in meetings, hearings, church, wherever … After enough of this, the expectation to show up in the office will diminish as long as you give good email.

First of all, the effects have already happened. Second, telework may not expand as much as technology will allow, because there are advantages to working in physical proximity to others.

I see a growth in work-in-cars as a means of blurring work/commute and home. It may be that carpooling happens because it provides people a way to work on the way to work.

The boundaries between work and leisure have already diminished significantly, and I’m afraid that work is winning out.

It’s hard to ever be “home.” No excuse for being offline.

Homeschooling does not necessarily equate with technological uptake, though initial studies suggest that homeschooling families have a slight edge on non-homeschooling families with respect to technology adoption. However, the loosening of the traditional work place will allow for greater freedom for families. I’m not sure I would say “sharply alter” family dynamics but alter, yes.

The trend is clearly for the rest of the workforce to join the new lifestyle. Make no mistake: this means more work time and less leisure time. For people with interesting jobs, this brings a more fulfilling life. For people with jobs that seem dull to them, this brings more cubicle misery – only now at home, too.

I think that’s already happened to a startling degree and that backlash and demand for personal/leisure time will result in mass turning-off of work connectivity at home.

First thing my sweetheart does in the morning is check his email on a Blackberry in the bed next to me. I suspect, though maybe wrongly, that there would be more cuddling were there no Blackberries.

It’s already happened in my life and my family. Not just the Internet, but mobile communication (phones, messaging) and other technologies for ubiquitous connectivity have this effect. It’s going to be a bumpy road!

The boundaries have already diminished significantly. I think this will have a profound impact on the life of children.

It’s already a problem and it’ll only worsen. P.S., I hate my husband’s Blackberry.

I agree, but I don’t think it will be a negative, just a re-ordering. For example, the traditional thinking of work Monday thru Friday 8 to 5, which is already largely a thing of the past will continue to erode. But, the ability to work anywhere at anytime might in fact allow families to live where they choose without regard to proximity to work, which would allow for more quality time to be spent with families. It’s already begun and I don’t think it will stop.

As someone who works at home, I can say that this is already happening. It’s a real challenge to segment work time from family time in an ”always-on” environment. Ultimately, this creates the same level of unhealthy distraction as ubiquitous usage of cell phones. We work too much in this profit-obsessed country, and unless employers start to trust their remote, home-based employees and don’t constantly check up on them or try to force them into regular hours, and then demand last-minute work to be done at night or on the weekend, the telecommuters of the world might all be early heart attack victims.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this affects how Americans value work. I’m looking forward to a culture that values leisure & family time equally, and I think this could be a valuable steppingstone.

I agree that family dynamics may be altered for the digital elite. But most people, I suspect, will still go to work and use computers sparingly. Many schools still have a 50 percent dropout rate. Computers will not change that dramatically.

The Industrial model of home and work divisions is breaking down, and the cultural lag in recognizing this is creating a fair amount of stress already. Our current city/suburb infrastructure is predicated on the traditional division between a home place and a work place, and technology is bringing about change faster than cities and suburbs can reorganize their infrastructure. This means that those individuals in families who must contend with these changes are having to adapt much more quickly without the benefit of previous generations’ experience and guidance. They are being forced into the role of teleworking pioneers. This will get sorted out by 2024 or so, and by 2034 people will not think twice about it. But we will see a strong generational gap, just like the gap when the farmworkers moved into the factory, or post WWII.

As telework expands and invades the personal space, people will revolt and begin to place boundries. We are already seeing this trend to some extent amongst the digital elite who are beginning to appreciate ”unconnectedness.”

I agree, but I don’t like it. It’s hard enough carving out the hours for family time (leisure); you’re suggesting that everything will overlap. Everyone will have their own schedule, so I guess quality family time would be like scheduling a meeting with others that have busy schedules.

On this summer’s family vacation, I did work conference calls on my cell phone while my kids watched a video with headphones in the back of the van. You can call that a vacation, but it sure didn’t feel like one on some days.

You’ve got the causes wrong, but the outcome correct. The causes are wireless personal digital assistants such as Blackberry and the ‘net itself, not telework and home schooling, neither of which has really caught on.

There is a rise among Gen Xers to be home more with their kids. I think this will put increasing pressure on employers to allow telework and alternative schedules. If employers do not respond I think we will see continued growth in self-employment and home-based businesses.

Yes, it’s already the case. My daughter and I even send emails to each other while we are in the same house; she is wirelessly connected to her laptop and I am on a desktop computer. We like the asynchronous convenience of this we chose to answer or not, and have a brief exchange, remind each other of details, set up rides to events. I find myself losing touch with friends who do not have email.

I think this will happen sooner and in 10 years we already see a counter movement. People are fed up by working all the time, or being interrupted by work during leisure time, so will claim back the free time and divide between work and leisure. Of course there are always people that make work out of their hobby and think their work is their hobby.

The difference between work and leisure will continue to exist. Family dynamics are already altered for many given the pervasive use of the internet for chat, use of computers for games, and DVDs for movies. Working at home has been around for a while. The federal government says it wants more employees to work at home, but the reality is that the increase in productivity expected has not materialized. In private industry some sectors may increase work at home, but others will not and probably can not given the nature of their work – be it services or manufacturing.

I imagine that we will no longer ”clock in and clock out” of work. It will be easier for families to schedule around personal needs, but it will also be easier for work to insinuate itself at home.

This is either a utopian, or an extraordinarily pessimistic prediction depending on how you choose to read it. While both telework and home-schooling are increasingly enabled by online tools, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there is huge pent-up demand by the broader society for either of these things. There are simply too many aspects of both work and school that require face-to-face contact. There are also special personal and interpersonal skills required to make either one of these things a success. It takes a special person to offer home-schooling to their child, or to work from home and maintain healthy relations with remote colleagues. The internet doesn’t change that. These things will grow, but likely at a modest rate for the foreseeable future.