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How electronic devices can strain shared custody arrangements

On Behalf of | Jun 11, 2024 | Child Custody |

It is natural for parents to occasionally disagree with one another about what is best for their children. Even those in the happiest marriages sometimes end up arguing over health care decisions, religious observances or educational matters for their children.

After people decide to divorce or break up, it is common for them to have intense disagreements about the right way to parent their children. The more issues parents outline in a parenting plan with each other, the more structure they have for their shared custody arrangement in the future. Rules about electronics can be a very important detail to add to a parenting plan. Otherwise, parents may find themselves fighting over technology-related issues that involve their children.

Who pays for devices and service?

The older children become, the more they rely on electronics for school and to remain connected with their friends. Parents often have to have a plan in place for how they cover the cost of acquiring a device and the cost of regular service. Such expenses often do not factor into child support calculations. After all, the courts are unlikely to view telecommunications for young adults as a necessary expense even though teenagers probably view it as a critical personal need.

What devices and services can the children use?

Perhaps one parent feels very strongly that social media use isn’t appropriate until after high school. There is research that indicates teens are actually happier when not constantly in contact with others.  Maybe one parent thinks that middle school is an appropriate age to have a personal phone, while the other believes a phone is only necessary once a teenager starts driving. Parents may need to put together a plan regarding what kinds of technology they intend to let their children use, such as tablets, gaming devices and phones. They may also need to have rules about what kind of apps or social media networks the children can access at different ages.

When can the parents take devices away?

Discipline can very easily cause disagreements between co-parents. One might view taking a cell phone away from a teenager as an appropriate punishment, while the other may view that as cruel or a form of social isolation. Teenagers often quickly discover that they can play one parent against the other to avoid certain penalties. Parents are most effective when they present a united front. Therefore, they typically need to have agreements in place ahead of time regarding when technology restriction is an appropriate form of discipline. Some parents may only take devices or internet access away as a last resort, while others might view even a minor drop in grades as justification for technology restrictions.

Addressing issues that are likely to strain shared custody arrangements ahead of time is a smart move. Any advanced planning that reduces conflict can be beneficial for the entire family.