Changing Times Together? A Time-Diary Analysis of Family Time in the Digital Age in the United Kingdom

Killian Mullan, Stella Chatzitheochari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: This study examines the impact of digital mobile devices on different aspects of family time in the United Kingdom. Background: Recent years have witnessed increasing concerns surrounding the consequences of the widespread diffusion of Internet-enabled mobile devices such as smartphones for family well-being. However, research examining the extent to which mobile devices have influenced family time remains limited. Method: Using nationally representative time-diary data spanning a period of unprecedented technological change (U.K. 2000 and 2015 Time Use Surveys), the authors construct a set of novel family time measures that capture varying degrees of family togetherness and examine changes in these measures over time. Novel diary data are also analyzed to explore the occurrence of mobile device use during different aspects of family time in 2015. Results: Children and parents spent more time at the same location in 2015, and there was no change in the time they spent doing activities together. However, there was a marked increase of alone-together time, when children were at the same location as their parents, but did not report that they were copresent with them. The results show that children and parents used mobile devices during all aspects of family time in 2015, but device use was notably concentrated during alone-together time. Conclusion: This study provides an empirical basis for documenting the impact of mobile device use on family time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)795-811
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Marriage and Family
Issue number4
Early online date11 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019

Bibliographical note

© 2019 The Authors. Journal of Marriage and Family published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of National Council on Family Relations. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Funding: Economic and Social Research Council. Grant Number: ES/L011662/1;
H2020 European Research Council Grant Number: Project 339703;
ESRC Grant Number: ES/L011662/1


  • adolescence
  • childhood
  • children
  • families
  • family research
  • technology


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