Technology Use by Divorced Families is Virtually Inevitable

Increased availability of computers, cell phones, and other multi-media devices has created an environment where technology can be a catalyst for maintaining closer family relationships. In today’s world, the use of technology can assist families to stay connected with one another and feel informed about day-to-day activities. A recent report from the PEW Internet and American Life Project indicated married couples with children used cell phones and the Internet to say hello, chat, “check-in” with family members, coordinate schedules, and stay connected on a day-to-day basis. This report reminds us that in today’s world, the use of technology is virtually inevitable.

  • 93% of married with children households reported having a desktop or laptop computer
  • 58% reported having two or more computers
  • 37% of those with one computer had an Internet connection
  • 63% of those with two or more computers had Internet
  • 76% of adults and 84% of children 7 to 17 years of age reported using the Internet.
  • 52% of users went online with someone else at least once a week
  • 34% engaged in occasional “shared screen moments” with another family member. Shared screen moments consisted mostly of entertainment or “Hey, look at this!” experiences.
  • 53% of participants reported that the use of new technologies resulted in higher quality of communications with family members who did not live in the same household.

The good news is that parents in this study reported that using the Internet to connect to one another allowed them to be as close, or closer, with their family today as they were with their family growing up. Interestingly, participants reported that technological advances were particularly useful for keeping in touch with family and extended family who may live many miles away.” In light of positive reports from two-parent families, it is logical to examine how the Internet might serve to strengthen the parent-child relationship for divorced fathers, a population with a tremendous need for “checking-in, coordinating schedules, making connections, and engaging in shared experiences. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, almost 1 million marriages end in divorce each year, leaving roughly 1.1 million children living with a parent who experienced divorce. Since custody is awarded to mother 84% of the time, many children are faced with physical and emotional barriers to having a meaningful relationship with both parents.

While there are a variety of social networking tools available to connect with others via the Internet, posting information about your family online has inherent risks.  The world wide distribution and accessibility of information on these sites, experts suggest individuals use caution when sharing personal information online (Williams & Merten, 2008). Families can educate themselves on the sites that are safe and designed to meet the relationship needs of families. Private social networking tools provide an alternative to the world-wide distribution of personal information by ensuring that nothing posted can be shared with anyone outside of the individuals the parent has invited to be on the account.  These private social networks are designed specifically to allow families and divorced families in particular, to take advantage of the same technology that is available to communicate and maintain consistent contact with your in a safe environment. While one should use caution, the use of a safe social networking tool can be a powerful way to maintain strong and healthy relationships when face-to-face contact is not an option.

We have a strong commitment to excellence in technology and an even stronger commitment to our families. We have experienced first-hand the pain of being separated from loved ones, from divorce, business travel and from parents or grandparents in other parts of the country or even other parts of the world. is dedicated to making the world a better place, one family at a time.

Shelly D. Mahon, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Human Development and Family Studies. Ms Mahon is a doctoral candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Email:

© 2009/2010 Shelly D. Mahon

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