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Managing Your Child's Digital Security Across Two Households

It seems that all children are enamored with screen time from a very early age. It was all good when it occupied a young child for a few minutes while dinner cooked or while waiting for a Doctor’s appointment. But technology has evolved. Devices now include games, music, social media, movies and more – including school curriculums.  Technology is a way of life for kids; it’s no longer a question of if a child uses it, but how much. When considering how much, it’s important to assess safety concerns, including privacy, bullying and physical safety. This all sounds challenging enough, so adding the element of multiple households complicates the issue even further.

Begin with a conversation. Explain to your child the importance of safety everywhere. If your child is of school age, this won’t be news to them, as many school curriculums include digital safety beginning as young as elementary school.  Discuss privacy, modesty and content that should never be shared online.

If your child has a second device at another parent’s home, communicate your approach and rules to that parent. Chances are that they share the same concern that you do for your child’s well-being online and will consider adopting some rules if they haven’t already. If communicating these concerns is not received well by the other parent, there are many ways that you can empower your child to be safe online.

Be consistent when your child is with you. Like adults, children will quickly form habits for technology use that will stick and certainly feel awkward when changed.

Leverage technology to your benefit. Many mobile phone carriers offer parental controls or subscription services that aside from emergency services, put locks on incoming or outgoing data during certain times of day. Use parental controls and other built in tools. If you don’t understand how to use these tools, call the support number.

Get social early and often. Stay aware of what online communities your child subscribes to and follow them and their circle of friends daily. Connect with your children’s friends when they first appear online when they most want to build their following and then be quiet. Just be there and don’t comment. They will soon forget that you are there, but being connected will allow you to observe what is happening. 

Understand that you can’t be everywhere, but your lessons will impact your child. Choices they make when using digital devices will travel with them, even if their device stays home.

In some cases, a parent may feel strongly enough about their child’s digital security to incorporate it into a child custody document. Consult your lawyer to discuss the specifics of your custody agreement directly.