New working paper examines how technological transformation is affecting family life in Austria, Estonia, Norway, and Romania


Our latest working paper presents insights into family life in the digital era through ethnographic case studies from Austria, Estonia, Norway, and Romania. As the ‘Digital Generation’, children and young people are immersed in digital technologies (DT) in their everyday lives. This generation is at the centre of creating contemporary digital culture and as result is at the forefront of experiencing both the risks and opportunities of DT. The Estonian case study highlights how receptive children are to the risks they experience, but also hear absorb from the general discourse. For example, the children have developed their own new language to cope with these phenomena such as ‘smart-hunger’. This high awareness is echoed in how strongly children perceive the relevance of DT to their lives. Some children could not imagine life without DT, such as in AT_FG5_KG ‘I would move out then, of the world. I would not like such a world’.

This influence extends to families, with DT being a tenet of daily family life. Each case study presents rich insights into how families are navigating the digital era in different European contexts. Central to the study is the idea of ‘doing family’ which provides a lens to examine how family is produced and exhibited through common practices (Jurczyk et al, 2014, 2020). Through this approach, it is interesting to observe how different families regard their use and non-use of DT to construct a sense of ‘we-ness’. DT use in the family can include more typical practices such as watching television together, or video-calling with family members who live further away, but also for other uses less prominent in the general discourse. For example, many families use DT to provide care and support for family members such as having a smart watch if a child needs to call for help, or using tablets to keep a child calm whilst a parent is conducting a task.

Each country team conducted focus groups of children aged 5-6 and 8-10 and a series of family interviews. The focus on these age groups sought to examine the differences in how children use and perceive DT pre and post transition from kindergarten to primary school. A wide variety of different kinds of families were included in the research. This included single-parent families, multi-generational households, large families, patchwork families and others. This methodology also allowed us to provide a series of insights on how to conduct research within the family setting, and notably with young children. Take a look at chapters 2.6, 3.5, 4.4, and 5.3.6 to read more about these reflections and recommendations.

Each country report contains different insights and recommendations to delve into. You can read the full paper here.

Jurczyk, K. (2014). Familie als Herstellungsleistung. Hintergründe und Konturen einer neuen Perspektive auf Familie. In K. Jurczyk, A. Lange & B. Thiessen (eds.). Doing Family: Warum Familienleben heute nicht mehr selbstverständlich ist. 1. Aufl (pp. 50-70). Weinheim: Beltz Juventa.

Jurczyk, K. (2020, Ed.). Doing und Undoing Family. Konzeptionelle und empirische Entwicklungen. Weinheim: Beltz Juventa.