“Surfing the internet”, sending a text, or “liking” something on Facebook, is not something today’s parents grew up with.
It is something children and parents disagree on, which means it is something separated parents of children will also disagree on.
As with so many important aspects of raising children, consistency is key. Parents will need to show a united front (albeit in separate households) for their children to be responsible and learn healthy habits when it comes to the use of technology.
For parents who have separated but not yet reached any formal agreement around parenting matters, (ie. a parenting plan or court orders), the starting point is to discuss this topic with the other parent and (if appropriate) the children to reach agreement regarding boundaries, timeframes / limits for use of technology and content that may be appropriate. For parents who are struggling to agree on aspects of parenting, come see us at The Mediation Place – we can help you with this.
Once the issues around use of technology have been discussed between the parents and agreement reached, some examples of wording to be used for certain issues may include:
- Neither parent shall permit the child to use electronic devices[as a form of entertainment] for more than two hours a day whilst they are in that parent’s care;
- Each parent is restrained from allowing the child to download any app, game or program which has a rating of MA15+.
Technology is also used as a common way for the children to communicate with their parents and so an agreement can also include terms such as:
- The parent with whom the child is living shall provide the child access to a smartphone to enable the child to communicate via electronic communication eg. Skype, Facetime with the other parent and shall provide a setting in which such communications can be private; or
- When the child is spending time with the other parent, the child shall be able to communicate with that parent via electronic communication eg. Facetime, Skype each Sunday evening between 7.00pm and 8.00pm.
The terms of any agreement should reflect the age / maturity of the children and the circumstances of each family’s dynamic; with the overarching consideration being what is best for that child.
On a more practical level, for older children, families may want to consider a screen time agreement which can be “negotiated” between the parents and the children and this can be used to ensure there is consistency in both households. An example of this agreement can be found here.
Technology, its benefits and dangers are here to stay; parents will need to ensure they are considering this issue, the impact of it on their children and how to manage it, when negotiating and finalising parenting matters after separation. This will hopefully ensure that the children will be ‘healthy and wise users’ of technology, with consistency across both households.
Joelene Nel is the Director of, and a mediator at, The Mediation Place. She is a Nationally Accredited Mediator and Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner; she also practises as a Senior Associate Family Lawyer at McLaughlins Lawyers. Joelene’s most challenging and rewarding work is that of being a mother to two children.
If you have parenting matters that you need some assistance in resolving, contact The Mediation Place – we focus families on positive resolutions.