Families are different – and some are more different than others

It is easy to believe everyone is using a variety of apps and services, especially if you are a heavy user yourself. Therefore, it is important to talk to many different groups of people to understand the variations in usage and behavior. That is what I do at Ericsson ConsumerLab.

It is remarkable how diverse smartphone usage can be between individuals, even if they have the same prerequisites, such as having the latest smartphones and the possibility to download apps and services, or being in the same age group, etc.

Let us have a look at two mothers, and how they communicate with their children.

Linda is going to pick up her daughter and her friend at the mall. She is early and goes for a coffee. After a while, she sends a text to her daughter to tell her she is at the mall. The text conversation goes back and forth, and eventually she calls her daughter to tell her where she is and where to meet.

Olivia is in the same situation but she sends a video Snapchat to her daughter, of herself at the café and a swivel of the surroundings and five minutes later the daughter and her friend turn up at the café.

When visiting those families during their so called “Family time” – when all the family members gather for an activity together – their different behavior is even more noticeable.

Linda’s family concentrate hard on the board game all family enjoy so much. Their smartphones are not even in the same room as no one would even think of using them during their time together.

Olivia’s family has gathered to play a computer game. But everyone gets easily distracted by their smartphones. Olivia cannot resist looking at her Instagram to follow the comments from her girlfriends, and her husband watches the football game in secret on his smartphone. Both know their children get annoyed by this behavior but they also know that the children look at their Snapchat streaks every two minutes.

These two mothers have a completely different mindset about communication services. While Olivia is curious and up to date with all new communication services, Linda is more reluctant in her approach to new communication apps. And this is steering how they use their smartphones and services within the context of family communication.

It is also interesting to see how the two mothers differ in having rules for their children.

Linda has strict rules on how to behave, but not when it comes to communicating through technology. She would not have a clue how to implement rules for accessing services and how to monitor her children’s smartphone usage. Olivia also has strict rules on how to behave, but also has full control of her children’s smartphone usage, as she tracks and monitors their usage, gatekeeping new services applying rules on how to use their smartphones.

Of course there is no right or wrong in any of those behaviors. We can just confirm that everyone is different. In our recent study about family communication we discovered two distinct groups with completely different family communication behaviors, where Linda and Olivia fit in well.

You might wonder if usage of communication services makes families happier or not? In short the answer is yes, it does, but it also raises more concerns. Families with lower usage, using mainly text and voice in their communication are also positive but less so, but at the same time they see few concerns with technology.

Evidently Linda’s and Olivia’s behavior differs in how they communicate within their families. It is most likely that Linda and her family will become more frequent in their usage of services and that they will increase their number of services in the future, while Olivia and her family will continue to be heavy users. The time we live in right now might be the time when the gap between these two groups is the greatest. A gap probably will remain in the future but may be reduced as technology knowledge is increasing in society in general. We just have to be aware that everyone is not there yet.

This is guest post by Ann-Charlotte Kornblad, Senior Advisor, Ericsson ConsumerLab.

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