Nowadays, I write into all Parenting Agreements that if there are laptops, cell phones, tablets or other electronics that go back and forth between the homes, a couple things need to be in place.
First, there needs to be an agreement between parents about who’s paying for the items and what will happen, who will take care of it, if they break?
On the co-parenting level, it’s wrong to buy a child a cell phone, tablet or laptop that you’re sending to the other home without the other parent’s knowledge or consent. Arming your kid with a cell phone and telling them to keep it secret is also wrong. Even if you think you’re doing them a favor because they’re uncomfortable with what’s happening at the other parent’s home.
If electronics are traveling back and forth between the homes, both parents should have all passwords, all access to everything on them, and there should be an agreement about which apps your children can and cannot use. I have seen parents who get their kids a secret phone because they allow Instagram and the other parent does not.
I’ve known some kids who delete certain apps at the other parent’s home and reinstate them when they leave. It’s not cool.
There are a lot of safety issues involved in using the Internet. No matter how savvy, intelligent or mature we think our child is, we can all be tricked by predators and scammed. Even adults get scammed! Anybody can fall prey. Scams and catfishing are becoming more and more sophisticated, so we don’t even know what tricks are coming out.
Parents must monitor their children’s electronics use, especially when connected to the Internet. I’ve seen kids post pictures of themselves near a street sign or their home address, not even thinking about it, making it easy for strangers to find out where they live.
Until your kids are 18, both parents should have every email account, every password, and be wise to the possibility that your kids might create fake accounts. You have to be willing to do some digging once in a while.
I’m not suggesting stalk your kids 24/7 – don’t read every text – but you’ve got to keep your ears open. This is within your parental rights. They are minors and they are not entitled to privacy regarding their communication patterns.
Plus, you own the device, which makes you responsible for what happens on it. If somebody sends out a picture of themselves in minimal clothing, consider that other parents might be checking their kids’ phones or tablets – it might be other parents who spot your scantily-clad child, and now are you responsible for distributing child pornography?
As well, your child’s electronic communications can and should be seen by the other parent, so be aware of what you’re saying TO your kid ABOUT the other parent in text or email.
This is a serious issue. Responsible, loving parents must think about every permutation of what can happen to kids, and yes we have to go to extreme, anxious places in our mind because that’s where people are going with this stuff.
Keeping our kids safe in the age of social media and electronics is going to get harder and harder.
Young children can be playing on a phone or iPad and end up on a porn site– permanently imprinting images and messages on their brains. Electronics can cause irreparable trauma at such a young age.