Kids’ use of technology is difficult to manage at the best of times. Throw in children who have two homes because their parents are separated or divorced, and it makes it just that much more difficult. I hope that this blog gives co-parents some ideas to help them through.
What should parents consider regarding their children’s use of technology across two homes?
First there’s the basic concept of when a child should have any electronic devices – a cell phone, a tablet, a laptop, a gaming console, and other electronics.
I see it sometimes where there’s differing views on when a child is allowed to have any of these things, and by one parent deciding on such a purchase or a gift to the child without consulting the other parent, it can put the child in the middle of parental conflict very quickly.
Best practice would be to discuss and agree with your co-parent as to the appropriate age where a child should have any particular electronic device.
Second, there’s the actual use of the device itself. Consider having consistent rules between households as to the screen time limits on each device.
Are there device-free times of the day? Or times where electronics are not allowed such as during meals or homework time?
Lastly, what about when kids switch between homes – what devices go with them and what devices stay at each home?
Where parents need to impose technology limits or consequences, what should separated parents consider?
Most devices allow parents to monitor for device usage. Which parent will have the parental controls? I recommend that both parents have the override passcode so that the on-duty parent will be able to approve or deny requests during their parenting time.
Ideally, co-parents will be able to agree on content ratings permitted on a device-by-device basis, and the parental controls can then be set at the administrative level.
Ideally parents should be on the same page about any consequences surrounding device usage. For instance, if a child is found to be going over their screen time, what is the consequence for that? Is it the same at both houses?
In the event that consequences needs to carry over into the other parent’s home, then agreement would need to be reached between parents on such consequences before it is imposed.
By contrast, don’t forget to reward your children for following the technology rules – if you impose limits, reward them for following them without complaint!
What should be discussed about the costs of children’s technology?
There’s so many cost-related issues to be dealt with:
First there’s the cost of the device itself. How will this be allocated between the parents, and will the child be required to pay any portion of it? Are there financing options, or options to spread out the cost of the device out over the term of the contract?
Next there’s the issue of an ongoing contract. If it’s required, who’s name will it go under? Again, is there an expectation that your child will contribute to the cost?
Another consideration is the brand of device that will be purchased. If the device will be shared between homes, and the cost will be shared, then having that discussion before the purchase is made would be ideal.
Data or Wifi only – if there’s data, then there’s going to be a monthly cost – how is this going to be paid, and will the child have to pay a portion?
What would be the next steps if parents want to make a technology plan for their family in two homes?
First would be to discuss the topics and questions raised this blog – parents can sit down together to discuss what they would like to see happen across two homes.
When I meet with parents to help them negotiate their parenting plan, I always bring up creating a technology protocol within their plan. Realizing how much conflict technology and the use of devices can bring, I help families to pre-empt their conflict in this regard.
Another useful resource is for families to go to healthychildren.org and type in the search bar “family media plan” – it’s an online wizard created by the American Academy of Pediatrics where families can specify their children’s ages and can create their consistent guidelines for use of technology in two homes.
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