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Divorced Parents Prefer Technology and Social Media As Communication Tool


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By Margarita Nahapetyan

Individuals who are separated or divorced are increasingly using technology when it comes to communicating with their ex-partners in regards with their kids, found a new study by a University of Missouri family studies expert.

According to Lawrence Ganong, a professor of human development and family studies at MU, who authored the research and examined the communication habits of about 50 couples, when ex-partners use e-mails, texting and social media as a weapon to either withhold or manipulate information, their children appear to be the ones who suffer most between the warring parents.

Modern technology makes it much easier for divorced parents to get along, and at the same time it also makes it easier for them not to get along, Ganong said, adding that ex-spouses who use technology in an effective way can make co-parenting easier, which, in turn, puts less stress on their kids. And those individuals who by means of communication technology try to manipulate or hide information from the other parent can cause pain to their child.

The study found that numbers of separated and divorced couples who e-mail and text each other in regards with their children significantly increased in the past few years. The ex-spouses who were in good terms and cooperated with one another reported using technology to plan or schedule visits and other activities. The partners who, after separation or divorce, had a bad relationship and preferred not to communicate face-to-face used communication technology to avoid conflicts and control their ex-partner's access to their kids.

Ganong and his fellow colleagues carried out interviews with 49 divorced couples individually and asked all of them about the quality of their relationships with their exes. Researchers found that those who maintained good relationships viewed methods of communication like e-mail and texting very effective when it came to coordinating exchanges of their children, and some parents even used online calendars in order to keep each other updated and informed about their children's activities. However, some parents in the study pretended that they never received e-mails or text messages from their ex-spouses.

But nevertheless, the experts came to the conclusion that an e-mail was still a very useful tool of communication. For those parents who cannot stand socializing in person and hate talking to each other face-to-face, e-mail appears to be a great resource of communication, Professor Ganong said. Such people can deliver important information while editing what they say to avoid confrontation and misunderstanding. In addition, this way the parents have a record of what they had agreed upon.

In cases when divorces end with some hostility between the parents, the experts suggest that ex-partners should seek professional advice from divorce counselors in order to find out about effective ways of using communication technology to maintain healthy environments for their children. Doing so will also help kids to transition more smoothly between the two parents and two homes and keep them away from their parents' conflicts, Ganong said. Ex-partners who have bad relationship need to set their feelings and emotions aside and understand that they need to communicate effectively in order to protect the emotional well-being of their own kids, the team concluded.

Meanwhile, other research on the matter has demonstrated that social media activities on websites such as Facebook are being increasingly cited in divorce petitions all across the globe. Divorce attorneys in the United States, for example, are likewise increasingly requesting to see a partner's Facebook page as evidence, while some studies even came to the conclusion that the social network appears to be the leading cause of divorce.

The finding of the study are published in the journal Family Relations.

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