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Introduction

The internet has significantly changed the way that people live and work, with many families now relying on digital tools for communication, employment, education and entertainment.  Digital communication tools such as Facebook and email can help families save time and money contacting friends and extended family members, and simplify communication when families are apart.  The internet can allow parents to telecommute, work at home as they raise young children, and easily access learning experiences.

Unfortunately, recent studies also suggest that the internet can have negative effects on family relationships.  High internet use may lead to conflict between parents and adolescents over teenagers’ lack of social skills and it can mean that people neglect their family relationships.  Frequent use of online pornography or engaging in online affairs may jeopardise partner relationships.  Even though relationship infidelity is not new, online relationships can develop more quickly due to lowered inhibitions, the lack of physical cues and the ease of exchanging information (Morris, 2002).

Use of social media can generate positive feelings of connection, but alternatively increase feelings of loneliness, and the emptiness of illusory and false or shallow connections.  The internet can also make it easy for a person to stalk or bully someone else, or make personally damaging comments that can be read instantly by a wide audience (Morris 2002, Mitchell et al. 2005).

In February 2015, Relationships Australia’s monthly online survey asked visitors to our website to report if their partner’s use of the internet had caused problems for them in their past and current relationships.

Relationships Australia State and Territory websites