Revisited: Communication Media Use in the Grandparent/Grandchild Relationship

  • Ulla Bunz Florida State University
Keywords: cell phone use, communication media, digital divide, grandparent/grandchild relationship, inter-generational relationship, media richness theory, medium choice, social influence model


This study extends and replicates some of Harwood’s (2000) earlier research investigating media use in interactions between grandparents and grandchildren. More specifically, this research extends Harwood’s work by adding the technologies of the cell phone, email, and instant messenger to the media he investigated (face-to-face, written documents, and telephone). Such a study allows finding out whether the availability of new technologies has any effect on the grandparent/grandchild relationship. Sixty-six dyads (N = 132) of grandchildren and grandparents participated in the study, completing a questionnaire on basic demographics, media use, and relational quality. Results show usage divides between grandchildren and grandparents, as well as within the grandparent group. The cell phone and face-to-face interaction are used most frequently in the grandparent/grandchild relationship. Technologies such as email or instant messenger are not used much even across the geographic distance they were designed to overcome. Follow up tests to a significant ANOVA did not show significant results for medium type chosen based on who initiates contact. Face-to-face remains the strongest predictor of quality inter-generational relationships, followed by use of the cell phone, the landline phone, and email (in that order). Findings are discussed in light of both media richness theory and the social influence model.

How to Cite
Bunz, U. (2012). Revisited: Communication Media Use in the Grandparent/Grandchild Relationship. The Journal of Community Informatics, 8(1). Retrieved from