Kids and the Digital Age: How Do Divorced Parents Deal with Differing Rules?

October 16, 2014
Ron Shulman

Article written by Ron Shulman

A recent story carried by the Toronto Star and other news outlets chronicled the challenges faced by a mom who was finding it hard to parent in the age of iEverything.

Her lament included the now-common concerns over how much time modern children spend on their cellphones, playing games and texting – living out an “iChildhood” so to speak – rather than enjoying the real-life world around them.

When those same kids are being raised by separated or divorced parents, the question of how much time is spent on computers, cellphones and other devices can become a contentious one.   Particularly where custody of the children is being shared under a court-order or negotiated settlement, children may be subjected to vastly differing rules and expectations in each home around how much time they spend plugged-in.  One parent may believe in strict restraints around the time spent on-line; the other may favour a more lax, unstructured approach.  Worse, each may resent the other parent’s differing parenting style, and this may give rise to conflict between them long after the divorce is finalized.

So how can separated and divorced parents – each with their own separate views on how much is too much Youtube – find a middle ground?  Here are some tips:

  • Consider an “out of sight, out of mind” approach to what goes on in the other parent’s home. Since you cannot control your children from afar – and certainly cannot force your former spouse to live by your rules in his or her own house – this may be the best approach to peace on a going-forward basis.  If you are the parent with stricter rules around how much time they spend in front of a screen, try to focus on the fact that they will have a healthier balance of connected vs. un-connected time when they are with you.
  • Avoid digging for dirt.  On a related point, try not to quiz your children about how much time they spend playing videogames or texting their friends when they are with the other parent.   This will only serve as ammunition in any future disputes with the other parent over more important and unrelated concerns.
  • Assume that that it will all even out.  Even if your own standards for internet and cellphone usage are not being met when the children are with the other parent, try to assume that in the big-picture sense, the kids will be okay.   If they are being cared for, are healthy, well-fed, rested, and feel loved overall, then the occasional surplus of internet time is not the end of the world.    

Sharing the parenting role effectively is not always easy.   The amount of time kids spend online is only one of many issues that come up between separated and divorced parents.   Developing a healthy and respectful approach to the resolution of all issues will help resolve this one as well.

Do you have questions on how best to resolves disputes in situations involving separation and divorce?  Contact us for a consultation.