With the support of Huawei and the University of Sunderland, we’ve published this research report – ‘Living the Future – The Technological Family and the Connected Home’ – which looks at the challenges and opportunities presented by new technologies in the home and their intensified use during the lockdown.
This report suggests our lockdown experiences will have a longer-term impact on our behaviours and the technology we adopt in our homes.
Aiming to provide a future scene setter, the focus is on home technologies likely to have an impact on families including smart devices, voice assistants, interactive toys and virtual reality. This research looks at how technology has changed and will continue to change family life and the benefits and challenges this creates.
A spotlight on the future of technology
There are many different family types and homes in the UK. Families live in a diversity of spaces and ways, from extended families with grandparents providing childcare to single parents with no family support. From fragmented families with children having multiple homes and relationships, to the traditional family of two parents, two kids and a bedroom each, and families living in cramped homes (or rooms) struggling with their finances. There is no singular notion of ‘The Family’ and we acknowledge up front that our findings and conclusions may not be relevant for every family or home. Even so, technology advances – most notably superfast connectivity – will have an impact on almost all families.
Though key workers including medics, shop workers, teachers and delivery drivers went to work during the COVID-19 lockdown, their social and family life, just as for everyone else, was locked to the home. As families stampeded onto the internet, suddenly, the industry and research hype and benefits of the connected home and family were clear. Technology provided our only portal to spaces and faces beyond our household. COVID-19 further highlighted the broad spectrum of family types and homes, but also, as was so evident during lockdown, very different kinds of access to technology and connectivity. COVID-19 has changed the use and perception of technology for the family and the home so significantly, it required a reconsideration of earlier findings in response to this paradigmatic shift.
Work began on this report into future technology and family life in late 2019, around the same time COVID-19 emerged. The home as the place families would stay in and do most everything from was no longer a prediction, it was to become an enforced reality for many.
Children, young people, technology thinkers, child safety experts and academics have all contributed, and together they suggest a family life where the home is even more central to our lives, as technology complements our desire to be ever more efficient, entertained and more widely connected. The report is richer for their contribution and we are indebted to them. Understanding how young people both use and think about technology has been critical in thinking through the issues raised in the report. Society needs our best thinkers working out how to enjoy the benefits of connected technology safely. The tech coming into our homes is designed precisely to be convenient, to entertain and perhaps to educate. With the deployment of home tech at scale comes a raft of safety and privacy concerns.
This report airs those issues – and acknowledges the reality that for many families, convenience trumps
online safety. That means its even more important that we all take seriously our shared responsibility to minimise the risks so that children can thrive online. That conversation has never been more necessary.
The report team
We took a wide approach to gather information:
See related advice and practical tips to support children online: