This past spring marked the 25th birthday of the World Wide Web. What once started as a geeky system used by few in the tech industry has been transformed into an intuitive and user-friendly technology that has permeated our lives and connected the world in amazing ways.
Pew Research Center's coverage on the Web's 25th anniversary reveals a variety of statistics related to the increase in Internet usage: 87 percent of adults now use the Internet, and 90 percent of users believe the Internet has been a good thing for them personally.
But the biggest benefit people cited in the research is their ability to connect and build relationships with others quicker and more easily than ever before. As a matter of fact, well over half of Pew's respondents said the Internet has helped them strenthen their relationships with friends and family and given them a better sense of community.
The constantly growing user base on hugely popular social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, agree. According to a 2011 Pew report on social media usage, two thirds of social media users said that staying in touch with friends and family members was the major reason they used these kind of platforms.
Because of these results, we decided to take a closer look at how families have benefitted from the Internet over the years, highlighting some creative ways that users have taken advantage of the connectedness the Web provides.
Giving military families deeper connections
A study out of Advances in Social Work focusing on Internet-based communication during deployment found that military members enjoyed higher marital and familial satisfaction when they communicated more frequently with family members far away using video technology.
USA Today also reported on how social media and other technologies, like video chatting, can provide a sense of home for military members, and a feeling of togetherness for their families.
USA Today described how Army Maj. Thomas Murphy, during his year-long deployment in Iraq, would video chat with his wife and two daughters regularly.
"You could break away from the monotony of everyday stress and feel like you're back home for a bit," said Murphy.
The video communication made his deployment more manageable and eased his return post deployment, especially with the couple's 2- and 4-year-old daughters.
"He was part of their day-to-day life, so there was no adjustment that this was some stranger in a uniform," said wife Bianca Murphy.
Helping international students remain close with their home countries and families
According to College Express, thousands of students travel abroad to attend places of higher education every year, and many of them experience a variety of situations and cultural differences that can be tough to make sense of without the support of others. Using the Internet to stay connected allows international students to keep connections at home strong.
Alex Olubajo, a junior from Nigeria, shared to College Express, “I love staying connected back home. Especially when I feel dejected or isolated, I know my family is always there to receive me."
In the same article, Genevieve Bordogna, an international student adviser and author of the piece, discussed the positives of sharing experiences with those back home.
"Staying connected is not only vital when adjusting to a new culture, but it is also important for the eventual return home," she wrote. "By maintaining connections with people back home, international students find that by the time they return to their country, they are less likely to feel that everyone else has moved on or left their relationships with the student in the past."
Allowing parents and teachers to communicate easily and effectively
The Harvard Family Research Project studied the ways that more frequent and meaningful communication between families and teachers could be promoted. The answer was Internet technology. The study revealed that when schools and families communicated using the Internet, students showed higher educational achievment and expectations.
"Overall, findings from this national study suggest that the Internet represents a promising but largely untapped opportunity for promoting family–school communication," Suzanne Bouffard wrote in the introduction to her research. "It is noteworthy that these patterns occurred in adolescence, a time when family involvement tends to decline. The Internet may represent an opportunity to maintain or even increase communication between schools and families of adolescents."
Giving grandparents the tools to connect with those afar
Video communications can also promote feelings of "being together" for older and younger generations. AARP also discussed ways that Facebook can connect families and allow them to keep in touch regardless of distance.
"Like a lot of older people, Hal Mozer likes to keep in touch with family. But with three grown children and six grandchildren, it's not always easy. So Mozer, 84, has turned to Facebook," Vanessa Ho wrote for the AARP.
Mozer uses the Internet to view pictures of his grandchildren and keep in touch about travel plans.
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