The rapid growth in digital technology over the last decade has led to a prolific range of smartphone apps. A large number are marketed specifically to separated parents in Australia. Many are designed to facilitate communication between separated parents, as well as to aid with organisation, financial management and/or legal proceedings. How do separated parents know which app might best suit their circumstances, needs and budget, and which apps could pose risks for themselves or their children?
The wellbeing of children is at the heart of this project. There is a solid body of evidence to suggest that the interests of children post-separation are generally best served when parents can cooperate and communicate with low levels of conflict. Apps may have the capacity to reduce conflict and improve outcomes for parents and children, but they may also have the capacity to exacerbate relationship conflict – and it may be that an app that works for one family doesn’t work for another.
The objective of this 2-year study is to help separated parents and family law professionals make evidence-informed decisions about which smartphone app or app feature(s) will help maximise positive communication and/or minimise opportunities for conflict for different family types and situations.
Stage 1 – Practitioner survey: the first component of this study is an online survey of family law practitioners. This survey will provide insight into professionals’ levels of knowledge and experience of mainstream apps, as well as any benefits or harms they have observed or anticipate with their clients. This survey is now closed and analysis is under way. Please contact Bruce Smyth (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions.
Stage 2 – App rating: the second component of the research is an in-depth analysis of the most frequently used apps. This will be undertaken by mediator pairs who have comprehensive knowledge of the common, complex issues that separated parents and their children face – particularly those experiencing high conflict.
Stage 3 – User-experience survey: The third component of research comprises an online survey for separated parents who are currently or have previously used a post-separation parenting app. This survey is designed to capture the real-world experiences of app use. More info for participants of the User survey. This survey is now open: Click here to complete the survey.
Tool: The main aim of this project is to provide a free, web-based tool that parents and practitioners can use to help them make informed decisions about which apps may or may not best suit their respective needs. The tool will be available in 2023.
Publications: Findings from the three arms of this research will be published in academic journals and conference papers. Links to all outputs will appear on this page as they emerge.
The research is being conducted by:
- Professor Bruce Smyth, Australian National University (Chief Investigator)
- Professor Jason Payne, University of Wollongong (Chief Investigator)
- Dr Genevieve Heard, Relationships Australia Victoria (Partner Investigator)
- Relationships Australia Canberra and Regions (Partner Investigator)
- Michelle Irving, Australian National University (Senior Research Officer)
If you have any questions about this project please contact Prof Bruce Smyth:
Telephone: 1800 702 927 (free call from landline within Australia).
New Zealand based parties who would like to make contact over the phone are welcome to email Prof Smyth with their contact details and he will return their call (in order to avoid incurring any cost to them).
This project is funded by the Australian Research Council (LP 200100413) and Relationships Australia – Victoria, Canberra & Regions
Information for participants of the User survey
The User Survey will be in the field mid 2022. More information on the survey can be found in the Participant Information Sheet. If you have any questions, or are interested in participating, please contact Prof Smyth.
Email: email@example.com or phone
Telephone: 1800 702 927 (free call from landline within Australia).”