This paper looks at the complexities of people’s engagement with and disengagement from digital media, by focusing on micro-environments of everyday situations in the scope of family life in the Portuguese context. In 2022, 88% of Portuguese households had access to the internet, with broadband or slower connection (Pordata, 2023). However, and as a response to the role of technology as a “backbone” (Lomborg & Ytre-Arne, 2021) in the daily life, some forms of disconnection have been prioritized in specific domains, such as the family. Our guiding question is: how are online and offline realms articulated in everyday parenting? We approach people’s dis/engagement with media as “embodied and affectively experienced” (Coleman & Paasonen, 2020, p. 1); and conceptualize everyday encounters with digital media in the home as atmospheres (Sumartojo & Pink, 2018), i.e., ephemeral elements of our everyday experiences and environments, that encompass the sensorial modes of engagement – including movement – as well as affective modes – including memories and imagination that are evoked and created experientially. We thus consider the materiality of devices as well as their dynamic role in particular situations of relations between people in space and time – in this case, in the home / among the family.
The paper draws on an ongoing study on the use of digital media in the context of family life, deploying ethnography (observation and interviews) with 5 diverse families with children up to 12 years-old, in Portugal. Family negotiations can be exhausting and demoralizing, especially with children and teenagers. We aim to understand how different families negotiate digital dis/connection in everyday life, and to gather more knowledge about how digital and social media culture permeates families’ lives (in care, play, information, etc), but also about how decisions occur in the family to keep parts of their everyday private, while making others public.