Article written by Axis Geffen
In the classic holiday movie "The Christmas Story" a child pleads with his parents to buy him a toy air rifle. His parents, teachers, and even Santa Claus cautiously reject him, saying, “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out!.” Although the story is a comedy, it grounds us in reality. Not every gift is a good idea; even good ones warrant some ground rules, discussion, and oversight. So, how do we make sure that your holiday story ends in a wonderful life? It begins with communication between co-parents BEFORE buying and giving the gift!
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. An open discussion between co-parents can save a lot of stress while simultaneously allowing the child(ren) to enjoy the holiday. They can appreciate their gifts without the worry of being limited by either parent unfairly. Nor will they face the despair of receiving something from one parent that the other won't allow them to enjoy.
However, once a gift is purchased, there are still concerns to be addressed, especially true of technological gifts. Safety and privacy considerations need to be addressed as well as legal concerns for misuse.
Electronic Devices, Video Game Systems, Computers, Laptops, Tablets, Phones, Etc.
All of the devices mentioned above (and more) come with access to the internet (or cloud). Giving these devices to children is likely to lead to the use of Social Media and/or the use of Privacy Applications. Depending on the child’s age, what level of “Privacy” will you let your child have? Will you be allowed to check your child’s electronics or Social Media? Will you be able to? Can your child block you from having access? Sadly, most devices are not designed with a loving, caring parent in mind. They are designed for an individual to communicate (by various means). The devices often have the ability to change passwords or lock out anyone... including parents that might want a peek!
Alexa, Echo, and Personal Digital Assistants
These devices are all over the place, but while they are common household electronics, they can impact privacy or generate evidence. Will any of this generated evidence be admissible if needed? Or will it lead to liability of the parent that gifted it?
Drones, Remote Controlled Vehicles, etc.
If you are curious about using drones in domestic matters, read the article I wrote almost 4 years ago. Since then, drones have gotten much cheaper. They incorporate smaller cameras, are fast, do stunts, operate on preprogrammed flight paths, and... get you and your kid into a heap of trouble if not used responsibly. In Canada, drones weighing less than 250g do not require a license; because of that, many people think they can use them whenever and wherever they want. That isn’t true. You need to understand the rules about these devices and ensure that your children also understand those rules. Otherwise, you could face stalking, harassment, and trespassing charges and be fully liable for the recordings and trouble they cause.
How do I ensure that my child(ren) safely uses their devices?
This can be a daunting task! We've already seen many parents engaged in "Sharenting" their children from a young age. Knowing this, how can we expect our children to know where to draw the line? Aside from teaching them about website safety, we must also concern ourselves with potential cyberstalkers and online bullying. There is also the concern of whether your child may choose to use their device to record conversations or to make videos of either parent, the family home, or other circumstances without fully understanding the impact or consequences to family safety. No parent can be 100% sure of how responsible a child will be with electronics until they're given electronics. Even then, it is impossible to monitor the child constantly. Furthermore, will the other parent use these technologies to gain insight into your home and new home life?
For all of the reasons above, it’s critical that both parents set ground rules for any new significant gift, agree on proper use, and enforce the rules they set. Electronics don't have to be a bad gift, though. Even if the other co-parent introduces a new electronic that wasn't wanted, but you permit to stay, it can be an opportunity for you to learn about it with your child(ren) and to bond with your child(ren) further as you jointly go through the ups and downs of getting the best out of it. Perspective is everything; as long as you focus on your child(ren)'s safety and enjoyment, it can still be a wonderful life. Thank you for reading and sharing this, my 99th article for the Shulman & Partners LLP Free Online Knowledge Base. Happy Holiday Season and A Very Prosperous New Year To All Of Our Readers!