Time spent in front of the TV or in the dining room has decreased by more than 10% in the past five years, according to a new study.
The study by the British Psychological Society (BPS) also found that the use of electronic devices and social media had become a major distraction for families, with children now the most likely to engage with the world.
While the research was carried out by a consortium of researchers from the University of Sheffield, the study is the first to compare the time spent watching TV, reading and doing other activities in a family home against the time it takes to do the same in the same household.
The researchers analysed data from a wide range of household surveys over a five-year period from 2010 to 2016.
The findings show that the number of family-time hours spent watching television, reading or chatting has declined by over 10% since 2009.
The research also found a slight rise in the use or use of digital devices, such as computers, tablets and smartphones, over the past year.
While there were some increases in social media use, it was still a small proportion of time spent, with the most popular social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram being used less frequently than reading.
Overall, family time spent in the home decreased by 11% from 2011 to 2016, while the number spending time with family friends increased by 8%.
While the overall picture of family life is better than it was five years ago, it is clear that the time that parents spend with their children has not kept pace with the increase in digital time.
“Digital time is the lifeblood of family, with a significant effect on the health of our children,” said lead researcher Dr Joanna Williams.
“As a society we have to invest more time and money in our families, and we must find ways to make our homes and communities more connected and enjoyable.”
The study found that, as families spend more of their time together, it has a positive impact on their wellbeing.
However, the authors say there is a lot of room for improvement, as there is no evidence that children’s reading and listening skills have improved.
“Parents need to have more time to spend together, and their children need to do their homework, but they also need to be able to have a good time,” said Williams.
“Digital technologies are increasingly the medium through which we can do this.”______