Interview: Nick Henry, Managing Director of National Family Week UK

So, what is family, anyway? I posed this question to the co-founder of National Family Week UK, who also offered his views on how the Web is transforming the family unit.

What is National Family Week? 

National Family Week was launched in the UK two years ago as a week long (Summer half term event) to recognise and raise awareness of the importance of family life in the UK. It has since become the largest celebration of UK families with support from over 180 national and thousands of local not for profit partners including charities, local authorities, sports associations, community and religious groups. In our first two years over 10,000 free events have been organised during NFW, involving over 500,000 families.

What is your definition of the 21s century family?

There is no precise definition for the 21st century family as it is evident that today’s family comes in all shapes and sizes. What constitutes family is no longer confined to the traditional 2.4 model.  

How has the definition of family changed? For example, how is your definition different from the 20th, 19th or 18th century concepts of family? 

The 21st century definition of family is a lot more flexible than it has previously been: it simply covers those who are closest to you who support you through difficult times and decisions and who provide you with security and stability. This may be a lone parent, a step mother or father, your grandparents, aunties or uncles, a close family friend or a guardian.

How has the Web specifically transformed the Family unit? 

Communication is improved all round between family members – you can stay closer to relatives in Australia via Skype, for example.

What’s more, kids can educate their parents on how to use the web and its technology, providing a new way for kids and parents to bond.

How does the Web support “family” as the family unit evolves over time, from birth to death?

It provides a readily available source of information and network of parents for help, advice and support on topics from pregnancy to handling teenagers.

 Parents can also use the internet to research areas that have an important impact on their family e.g. playgroups and children’s centres, schools, university courses and flexible jobs for working parents.

Who is leading the digitsation of “family” - the kids or the adults?

Kids are hungry for new technology, so they lead the way.

How do families rely on the net and technology? 

The net provides a valuable way to save time in today’s busy family life e.g. online shopping, researching cheap family days out and booking tickets in advance for holidays and attractions. 

How does digital technology bring family together? 

It provides a platform for parents and kids to learn together and for families to keep in touch.

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