As the numbers of families that are single and co-parenting grow, so does our dependence on technology and the devices that utilize it -- even to the point that some divorce decrees are written with guidelines that dictate technology access, usage and availability. Technology is a beautiful way for your kids stay connected, be entertained and can be used as a tool to learn new skills and introduce new concepts, but often times, technology usage can be a source of conflict for co-parenting and divorcing families.
Here are three tips to help smooth the process.
1) Talk about your expectations
Many conflicts arise from the disappointment that comes from unmet or unexpressed expectations. For example, one parent expects the kids to be off of the phones and devices by 7:30pm while other might not think that it is a big deal and allows the kids to be on the devices until bedtime. Things rarely become an issue until one parent realizes that the rules for technology usage are different at the other parent's house and vice versa. Proactively, talking about your expectations and listening to your co-parent's expectations removes the element of surprise. If your parenting relationship has not progressed to the state where you can talk easily and with civility, writing out and sharing your expectations with the other parent via email or paper for telephone usage, online activity, gaming and device usage is a good place to start.
2) Game Plan It
Once you know what your expectations are, it is very easy to come up with a game plan and provide your children with your expectations in a clear and concise manner. FOSI's family agreement guideline is a great place to write out your united guidelines for usage and share them with your children.
3) Habits take Time and Consistency
Like any habit, it takes time and consistency to establish behaviors. Ideally, the guidelines will be consistent at both houses and enforced the same way to create positive digital habits. Sometimes this consistency is not possible or even desirable by one parent or another, and it is important to know this going into the establishment of the guidelines. If the rules are different in one location and different again in another, it will take more time to establish boundaries, habits and routines with your children. Placing the guidelines in a central location where they are easily seen can help, but it is still process and will take time.