Crumbling Relationships from the Digital Divide

Now Playing 🔈

Facebook, Instagram, Google –– what do they have in common? They are all companies that seem to have become household names in this current generation, Generation Z or Millenials, which includes myself. However, this was not the case 30 years ago in my parent’s generation(baby boomers) or 50 years ago in my grandparents generation(silent generation). Consequently, the adoption of technology has created a stratification leading to a generational digital divide within my family.

My parents moved to America when they were both teenagers, and the only technology that was available was the television; thus, they never grew up having information so readily accessible. They experienced the creation and unimaginable rise of the internet. However, since they were immigrants, they did not have a lot of money to spend and never had the chance to obtain access to such luxuries. Contrastingly, by the time I was born, the internet was already common in most households. My generation grew up as digital natives; therefore, it is not surprising that in Jingjing Jiang’s article,, “Millennials stand out for their technology use, but older generations also embrace digital life,” it was found that 97% of Millenials use the internet (para. 11). Although we had a PC, my parents always encouraged us to find enjoyment in physical activity rather than artificial things. However, with the unlimited amount of websites to explore, I rarely left the computer and, consequently, they would always scold me. As a digital native, this created a barrier between myself, a digital native, and my parents, who were digital immigrants and did not understand the interest I had with the internet, especially since they rarely used it. It was difficult to find similar interests and connect with them. This seems to be the reality for many families. In Jim Taylor’s article,, “Is Technology Creating a Family Divide?” he discusses a study that found “when the working parent arrived home after work, his or her children were so immersed in technology that the parent was greeted only 30 percent of the time and was totally ignored 50 percent of the time” (para. 2).

This gap extended to my grandparents, but it was even more severe; my parents have now acclimated to the use of the internet. Even though they do not spend as much time on it as I do, they are aware of the benefits. My parents are part of the 83% of baby boomers that have tried to transition from digital immigrants to digital natives by utilizing the internet (para. 11). They see the internet like reading and writing where some excel at learning it and some have more difficulties, but it is something necessary to learn. Regardless, my grandparents continue to live with neither a computer nor a smart-phone. They encompass the definition of a digital immigrant, which is common for their age group, as only 30% of the Silent Generation have a smart-phone, and just 52% of them use the internet 😲 (para. 2). Ironically, they live in Hong Kong, which has one of the fastest internet speeds and where technology plays a large role in everyday life. However, because of how old they are and how costly it can be, especially paired with the high cost of living, they see no use in integrating it into their lifestyle. As a result, I rarely communicate with them and barely have a relationship with them. My maternal grandparents, whom I was very close to, have already passed away, and because they lived 30 minutes away from me, I was able to establish a strong relationship with them.


Contrarily, my paternal grandparents and I hardly know anything about each other, and the only way I can get in touch with them is by calling them, since they only own a landline phone. Nonetheless, this can be very difficult to do because I am a busy college student. There is also a language barrier, as they do not know English, and I am not an expert in Cantonese. It can be very costly to make international calls, thus I refrain from having extended conversations with them. Their inability to access the internet creates a gap in our relationship as we never have face-to-face contact. Sadly, I have only visited them twice in my life 😞, which is aggravating 😡 because I would love to build a relationship with them. Even if they wanted to access the internet, their socioeconomic status hinders them from the ability of doing so. Despite the internet has been beneficial in bringing people together, it has also constructed a generational digital divide, where the generations drift further apart. Although I want to be closer to my paternal grandparents and find common interests with both my parents and grandparents, the internet has created such a strong digital divide between us that it is a difficult task to accomplish.

5 thoughts on “Crumbling Relationships from the Digital Divide

  1. Your discussion of the divide between digital natives and digital immigrants is a really interesting point in your paper. I think there is a lot of opportunity for expansion. Maybe you could call them and ask them how they felt to have worked all day and came home to see their child in front of a computer, not acknowledging them (not trying to call anyone out, my mom and I fought about this all the time). – NBJ

  2. I think it’s really interesting that you have decided to talk about how technology has created divides in your relationships. In order to expand on this idea, you might want to either focus on other relationships where technology has created divides–maybe with teachers, peers, friends–or where it has done the opposite and brought you closer with someone. I think touching on the positive aspects that technology has had in creating relationships would make your paper more well-rounded.

  3. I think it is very interesting how you included your experiences with the gender digital divide from your own experiences. My own grandparents have always had internet access for as long as I can remember, even though it was dial-up, and I can remember playing games on their computers as I was growing up. However, I can relate to my parents being against spending extended hours on the internet growing up, and also encouraging me to get outside and participate in physical activities, which is something I think all kids needs regardless of how beneficial the internet can be. Something I think that you can explore more is how being online affected you in school or other aspects of life, besides that you have a very well-rounded paper with personal experiences to digital divides. -CRM

  4. I really liked how you personal you made your essay about in terms of your relationships with your parents and grandparents. I liked how you emphasized the ageism gap between digital natives and digital immigrants and how you’ve seen that firsthand in your own family. One thing I think you could touch upon possibly is not just an age or wealth gap, but a culture gap between you and your family. Since you’ve had a computer for a long time, what was it like for your family to not be able to type in mandarin or cantonese? How did that impact their use of the internet, if at all? Is there a difference between communicating online in Chinese versus English? Do they have the same experience online as you would if everything was formatted to their preference? These are just a few things to consider. I would still keep trying to have that personal touch your paper already has. – BC

  5. I thought you had a really unique approach to this blog post. I loved how touching your personal story was but I do think you could expand on this. How do you think you could attempt to bridge this divide between your family? What steps could you take? You could also talk about the opposing view about how the internet actually can connect families that are living across the world. This would help make your paper more positive.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s