Co-Parenting Etiquette: Managing Children’s Technology

A parenting issue that worries most families, whether intact, separated or blended, is the proper management their children’s access to technology. For divorced or separated parents, particularly challenging co-parenting dilemmas are presented when the parents do not see eye to eye on this issue. Children traveling between households may have different rules and restrictions, which can cause confusion for the children and major frustration for the adults.

For instance, a parent seeking to enforce a technology ban at her house may not be pleased when the child’s other parent is not willing to enforce the ban. Similarly, that parent who paid for it may not appreciate a parent’s confiscating of a child’s iPhone. Some divorce decrees include a technology management plan that both parents agree to as part of the divorce settlement, but this is a rare occurrence.

The following guidelines will help navigate co-parenting etiquette surrounding this issue:

One parent does not unilaterally make the rules for the other parent’s house. If a parent wants to limit his child’s screen time at the other parent’s house, that parent needs to talk to the other parent and ask if that parent is willing to back him up. Parents should avoid making assumptions, demands or setting rules he cannot enforce while his child is with the other parent. The co-parenting lines of communication need to be open to be successful.

If a parent does not want the child to bring his device to her house,
then she needs to make that clear to the other parent. If the other parent still sends it, despite her requests, she can take the device for safekeeping and return to child at the custody exchange.

Parents should not believe everything their child tells them.
Children who go back and forth between households learn to manipulate. The child may be misrepresenting the amount of screen time allowable at the other house and vise versa in order to get his way. Parents should make sure they are getting information directly from the other parent to avoid this common pitfall in co-parenting.

If the other parent has no rules regarding overuse of technology and will not consider the opinion of the other parent on the issue, a parent may consider completely eliminating the technology at his house to compensate. Although, given how prevalent this technology is in our society today, this is going to be difficult. The child will feel punished simply because she has two parents that can’t get on the same page.

Co-parents need to remember
that it is perfectly fine to have different rules regarding screen time. The child will adjust. Ideally divorced parents will address technology management together. If that is not possible, parents should be consistent at their own homes so that the child knows what to expect.

Jessica Anderson
Reno Family Law Attorney