The Importance of Two-Home Digital Rules
We have all heard it, and most of us have heard it more than once: Children need consistency. As they grow, young minds require it in order to thrive—in schedules, in chores and expectations, and perhaps most importantly, in rules.
Unfortunately, when a child's parents become separated, consistency is often left by the wayside, leaving young children feeling lost and unsure of their boundaries.
When one parent is setting far more boundaries in a child's life than the other parent, the child may lash out towards the stricter parent. It can also lead to naughty or inappropriate behaviors as the young person tests the seemingly limitless boundaries of the more lenient parent. For this reason, it's important for divorced or separated parents to communicate with one another about household rules and compromise in as many areas as possible to maintain consistency between households.
One area where young ones often need boundaries the most is with electronic devices. When a family separates, young children are more likely to acquire electronics such as smartphones, tablets, and even laptop computers in order to stay in contact with both sides of their family.
Because a young person won't know what kinds of boundaries to set for themselves when it comes to internet and electronic usage, it's crucial for separated parents to agree on a set of rules for the new device(s). By setting very clear boundaries, both parents can rest easy knowing their kid is less likely to get into trouble. Additionally, when clear rules are put in place, a young web surfer who does happen to go beyond the boundaries can receive consequences without argument, and because the rules are the same from one home to the next, so too can the consequence carry over effectively.
So what kinds of rules should you and your co-parent consider putting into place?
When given a new electronic device, kids rarely want to put the device down to do anything else. For this reason, it's a good idea to set strict time limits on any electronic usage. Some tablets come with handy timers just for this purpose, but if your child's device doesn't have one, you can simply use a kitchen timer.
Additionally, many parents find it useful to require the child to do a certain task (or set of tasks) before earning screen time. This could mean the child must do all homework first, chores must be completed, or even a special task outside their regular list of chores must be accomplished before any screen time is allowed.
Finally, some families set limits on when electronic devices may be used. For one family this might mean the tablet is only to be used just before bed to say goodnight to Mom or Dad. For another family, device usage might be limited to weekends only.
If your child is very young, you will likely want to provide them with a very specific list of websites they are allowed to visit. Make all other websites off-limits.
If there is a particular website your child would like to visit, or if there is something they would like to study, take the time to sit down and check out all content with them or beforehand. This will ensure no adult content finds its way to your child's screen.
"Open Book" Policy
Older children tend to become secretive if they're doing something they know is wrong or against the rules. For this reason, it's good to establish an "open book policy" with your child. This means that if you ask them what they're up to at any given moment, they must give a truthful answer. Additionally, it means that you have the right to examine their web history, text messages, email messages, and social media accounts whenever you feel the need.
Consider Limiting Social Media
Social media is the place where many new internet users find trouble. From cyberbullying to inappropriate relationships, social media can lead to some very unacceptable behaviors. Because of this, you may want to consider restricting the use of social media.
If you do allow your child to have social media accounts, requiring them to allow you to "friend" or "follow" them may make you feel more at ease.
These are just a few of the things to consider when setting electronic device rules for your children. By taking your children's maturity levels, your own comfort levels, and your co-parent's wishes into account, you should be able to come up with a set of two-home digital rules that work well for everyone involved.