Consumer electronics, once seen as a barrier to family togetherness, have become a critical component of family life and now play a starring role in many popular family activities. At least that is what is indicated by a national survey of more than 1,000 parents (women and men ages 25-54 with at least one child under age 18 in the home) conducted online Dec. 13-15, 2010 by Memorex (

The survey shows consumer electronics are viewed as an integral component of family life, with 35 %of parents saying their families “could not function” without electronics and only 1-in-10 parents saying electronics “are a necessary evil” or “create an unwanted barrier between family members.” Compare this to last year’s WeTime Parent Survey — where 24% of families said they feel consumer electronics do not enhance WeTime — and the change in attitudes becomes obvious.

For over half of families (51%), “WeTime” — getting together with family to enjoy each other’s company, whether planned or spontaneous — happens at least every few days. Of the most popular WeTime activities for families, three out of the top five involve consumer electronics: watching television or movies (86%); cooking, baking or grilling (49%); playing video games (42%); reading or listening to books (41%); listening, singing or dancing to music (39%).

The younger generation of parents (age 25-34) does behave differently than older generations (age 35-44 and 45-54), according to the survey. Younger parents are more likely than their older counterparts to: use video game accessories multiple times a day (44% of those who do are younger parents); use social networks or photo sharing web sites to store digital photos (43% of those who do are younger parents);lListen to Internet radio during an average week (41% of those who do are younger parents); and listen to digital music files on a MP3 player during an average week (37% of those who do are younger parents).

Video gaming is now a favorite activity among both parents and children, with 2-in-3 children (67%) and 3-in-5 parents (61%) playing some type of video game every few days. In fact, video game accessories are the only consumer electronics children use more often than their parents.
Few adults seem to mind their kids’ passion for gaming, however: Four-in-five parents say that video games are conducive to WeTime. Of families who own a video game console, 88% play video games together.

We’ve seen a rapid shift in family attitudes toward consumer electronics in the past year. Fortunately, at least according to the WeTime survey, it’s a positive shift that involves families embracing new technology in order to spend more quality time together.

— Dennis Sellers