Managing kids’ internet access, screen time, video game choices and what devices they’re allowed to have can be challenging for all parents. Sometimes they’re generally in agreement and can support each other in reinforcing their rules. In some families, one parent may be much stricter than the other.
If you’re separated or divorced, controlling your children’s digital access across two homes can be particularly difficult. That’s especially true if your co-parent doesn’t agree with your rules -– or seems determined not to enforce them just to make you angry.
As with just about all aspects of child-rearing after a parental break-up, it’s best to strive for consistency. Kids tend to feel more secure when their parents can agree on what is expected of them.
Include some rules in your parenting plan
If your children are nearing or have reached the age where they have their own phone, laptop, tablet and/or access to video games, it’s wise to include some rules about them in your parenting plan. This will require you and your co-parent to discuss your concerns about your children’s well-being.
Are you worried about what they’ll see online without parental controls? Are you concerned that they’ll become addicted to gaming and their grades or extracurricular interests will suffer? Do you fear they’ll fall victim to online predators? Too many children fall down these rabbit holes because their parents aren’t paying attention.
Don’t expect complete consistency
Even with a detailed parenting plan in place, you can’t expect your co-parent to always adhere to it. Unless they’re putting your child in danger, it’s usually best to accept that they may be more or less strict than you.
For example, maybe you have a “no phones at the dinner table” rule and your co-parent doesn’t. Simply explain to your child that this is the rule in this home. As kids mature, they’re able to understand that there are different rules and behavioral expectations for different situations. As long as you’re consistent with your rules, that’s the most important thing.
As your children move into their teen years and then into high school, your rules (and probably the devices and sites) will change. Kids typically know what’s available before their parents do. You’ll both need to keep up and perhaps make modifications to your parenting plan as the years go by.