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How is technology helping two-household families?

Technologies like iChat and Skype help keep distant family members together.
Technologies like iChat and Skype help keep distant family members together.

Thanks to developments in communication technology, the ways that parents keep in touch with their children has changed dramatically. According to a Pew Internet survey, 42 percent of parents contact their children everyday on their cell phones while 53 percent said that technology strengthened their contact with distant family members [source: BBC].

So although we might assume that technology is breaking down our ability to communicate in a meaningful ways, it can strengthen communication within families. In particular, it can help communication between two-household families, such as those with divorced parents.

Divorced parents who don't have primary custody of their children often face challenges when trying to maintain contact with their kids. They might live far away from their children and not see them often. Speaking to the ex-spouse on the phone about arranging visitation could become contentious. Lingering animosity between ex-spouses might lead the custodial parent to limit their children's contact with their non-custodial parent.

However technology is helping to change that. While there is no substitute for in-person contact, e-visitation or virtual visitations through the use of webcams can help bridge the gap between parents and children who do not have daily face-to-face contact. Technologies such as Skype, iChat, Facetime and video chat through Google offer real-time audio and visual connection. In 2004, Utah became the first state pass a law granting virtual visitation and other states have followed suit.

E-visitation can be a better method of communication than phone calls because you can read your child's body language and see his or her growth and development. Children are more likely to remain engaged in conversation when they have both a visual and audio connection with their parent, and they're more likely to be interested in technological communication than traditional phone conversations.

Technology can also be used to arrange visitations. An e-mail or text message offers a less confrontational method of getting in touch than talking on the phone; however, keep in mind that talking or face-to-face conversation might be necessary when discussing serious matters in a child's life. Also, remember that the tone of texts and e-mails might be misconstrued by an ex.

Although technology has the potential to change the way in which two-household families communicate, some risks accompany its benefits. With the ease of blogging, updating Facebook statuses and Tweeting, people caught in the middle of an ugly divorce can expose their family's situation with the tap of a screen or click of a button – and these could become part of lawsuits. Remember, anything that you put in writing or publish on the Web can be used against you in court or shown to a child, so be sure to keep all technological communication as clean and cordial as possible.