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Managing Children’s Technology With A Co-Parent

Often times during a divorce parents disagree about the type, amount, or access to certain types of technology by the children in the other parent’s home. Generally, one parent cannot dictate the activities that occur in the other parents’ home during his or her parenting time. However, if this is an important topic to one or both of the parents, parameters for technology use can be addressed during the negotiation of a parenting plan or requested from the court.

As with any decision related to the children, ample communication between the parents before introducing a new type of technology, social media, or device to the children can be pivotal in managing expectations for all involved. I often see that disputes arise in cases when one parent purchases a cell phone for the child without informing the other or uses some type of device to track the child’s location without disclosure to the other parent. This is often done without malicious intent but rather out of a desire to maintain connection with the children when outside their home. However, it can be perceived as a lack of trust in the other parent. Conflict escalates when the other parent prohibits or limits use of this technology by the child thus breaking the child’s connection with the purchasing parent.

As always, the first step to avoiding this conflict is communication with your coparent. Another way to avoid this is to include language in your parenting plan stating parameters for technology use by the children in both homes. The parents may rely on certain prevailing organizations to set forth standards for their children. For example, the World Health Organization, relying on the American Academy of Pediatrics and other sources has set forth guidelines on how much screen time is appropriate for children of various ages. However, individual families will need to decide what works best for them.

Another way to address this, if the coparents are able to communicate effectively, is to introduce technology contracts to the children that preside in both households. The Center for Online Safety recommends that parents introduce technology contracts for the children that set expectations on use and create safe environments.

Technology contracts can state what may be accessed on a device, where and when devices are used, and for how long. Groups like Bark, a device and technology company that works to help parents monitor technology use by children, and Psychology today have sample contracts online that can help parents overcome these hurdles.

Overall, allowing children access to technology, especially a cell phone, while in the other parent’s home can help both parents feel secure in their connection with the children while they are out of their home. Taking proactive steps to manage that technology can lead to a successful coparenting relationship.