This article is a series of bite-sized tips, provided by the amazing Melissa Griffin, more commonly known as HR Mom. Melissa is walking the co-parenting path and offers her insights for families in this often difficult situation.
Do it for the kids.
When it comes to managing technology, it is important to find as much consistency as possible – especially in a co-parenting situation. If one parent restricts access and tech use and the other allows an all-you-can-eat tech buffet, a child can be living in an ongoing cycle of addiction and withdrawal as they move between two households.
For the sake of the children, some divorce decrees even include a technology management plan that both parents agree to as part of the settlement. Managing tech use with an Ex takes communication, compromise, teamwork, and consistency.
Have clear expectations.
In joint custody arrangements, when parents don’t agree on certain issues, it’s important for you to be clear about what the family rules are in your home.
Consider a written contract outlining tech expectations and limits in your home so there is no confusion. Anticipate pushback at first, but stand firm and move through it and the kids will quickly adjust to the different sets of rules. By keeping standards consistent, parents help their children to internalize them. For example, “When I go to mom’s house, I have to turn in my device at 10pm.” Learn more
Consider reading through our Digital Playbook for tips on creating an effective written tech agreement.
Focus on YOUR home.
As difficult as it is, parents should avoid conversations with their kids about why things are allowed at the other parent’s house. Children who go back and forth between homes learn how to manipulate. If asked, parents can respond by saying, “We don’t have the same rules on many issues. And that’s okay.”
Share your specific concerns with your Ex.
Take time to calmly explain your biggest fears to your co-parent when it comes to technology. Is your biggest worry exposure to porn and sexual content? Is it the effects of social media on your child’s self-esteem? Is it exposure to online predators when screens are used at night? Then listen to THEIR most prevalent concerns when it comes to tech use.
Co-parents will be more willing to compromise when they realize this is not about being in control, but about addressing both parents’ specific worries about their kids’ well-being.
Consult before giving your child a new device.
Let your co-parent know well in advance of a technology purchase. This allows time to hash out details behind the scenes – general guidelines about usage, whether the device will be carried back and forth to both homes, etc. This prevents children having “secret devices” one parent doesn’t know about, and makes it clear that their parents are on the same page. This applies to grandparents and other relatives as well.
It’s OK to limit devices but not access.
If your child receives a device from a co-parent that you do not wish for them to have at your home, you have every right to take the device for safekeeping at the beginning of the visit and return to the child at the time of the custody exchange. If this is the case, be sure you are providing ample opportunity for the child to have open access to their other parent using one of your devices.
Identify and respect the co-parenting “deal breakers.”
Remember, they can’t all be deal breakers. It is extremely rare that co-parents will agree on ALL aspects of tech use, so be ready to compromise. If SnapChat is an absolute NO for you, make that clear; but be willing to bend when your co-parent wants looser restrictions on late bedtimes or wants to allow more violent video games, for example.
Share monitoring responsibilities (if possible).
If one parent is more tech-savvy, they may agree to set up and help troubleshoot the monitoring software on devices in both homes. If both parents are committed to limiting pornography and sexual content, Covenant Eyes can be installed on devices in both homes. Co-parents can both receive reports of concerning activity. Parents can ensure they both have access to the kids’ log-ins and passwords to apps and both agree to spot-check regularly.
Some co-parents choose to split the costs of monitoring software, realizing the kids’ safety must come first and this peace of mind is priceless.
Consult BEFORE enacting restrictions.
If a parent wants to limit a child’s screen time at the other parent’s house (example: “You’re grounded from your phone for the weekend.”) they should talk to the other parent FIRST to be sure that parent is willing to back them up. They should avoid making assumptions, demands or setting rules they cannot enforce while the child is with the other parent. The co-parenting lines of communication need to be open for any consequence like this to be successful.
Involve your children whenever possible.
Kids are almost always more willing to comply with rules that they’ve helped create. Going back and forth between homes is tough. Kids can often feel like they have no control – that someone else is always dictating what happens and when. This is especially common in a divorce situation. Giving kids some agency in the tech rules when possible will encourage them to obey those rules.
Respect Privacy when it comes to Tracking Devices
In the interest of their kids’ safety, a parent may wish to track the kids’ location through apps like Life 360 or xxx. This tracking often continues even when the kids are with their co-parent. Such monitoring essentially allows a parent to track an ex-spouse’s whereabouts during his/her visitation. This can be seen as an infringement on personal privacy. It is important to be honest with your co-parent and disclose when you are tracking your child via their electronic device. A co-parent may prefer to turn this tracking off during their visits. As difficult as it is to give up this control, it is up to each parent to decide how they will keep the kids safe while in their custody. (When teens begin to drive, many co-parents agree to enable tracking at all times, with BOTH parents having access to their whereabouts in case of emergency.)
About Protect Young Eyes
Founded in 2015, Protect Young Eyes is a leading voice showing families, schools, and churches how to create safer, “no digital secret!” spaces for young people. We do this by creating content that is reliable, practical, and easy to use. Our team of presenters performs hundreds of talks annually and 500+ mini-lessons in the Protect App help busy, amazing families be digital-ready! Available for Apple or Google. The co-parenting tips above came from the Co-Parenting lesson in the app. Check it out today!
Melissa “HR Mom” Griffin leads a growing community of parents who are committed to launching independent, Real-World Ready Kids. She provides practical strategies for “upskilling your kids” and running your family like a team. She and her co-parent are raising two boys (ages 12 and 16) who share four devices between their two homes.