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Social media usage and co-parenting

How to manage your child's use of social media (and technology in general) is one of the hot topics of the day. While that's a key part of parenting, so is your own use of the medium.

It's common to draw a parenting plan in divorce, something that looks ahead to the challenges of raising your children with your co-parent and ex-spouse. The needs of your kids will change as they mature, but the idea is to present a diagram for how you will handle the key elements: providing care, growth, opportunity and discipline.

Finding agreement between homes

Your children will be raised in two homes by multiple parents: yourself, your ex-wife, and any new partners who come along in a later remarriage. When dealing with distance and different personalities, there will be different opinions. A parenting plan's goal is to unite that chorus voices into a single philosophy for everyone to honor.

A recent example of parental disagreement includes using social media to punish children. A father published embarrassing photos of his daughter, with her holding a sign that read, "I will be a leader, not a liar." The punishment was to show consequences of an action, in this case a lie. The mother disagreed, saying it humiliated the daughter. Ultimately, the court determined it did not violate parental rights because, while embarrassing, it did not cause "irreparable injury."

Avoiding conflict by planning ahead

It is a parent's right to make decisions for his children but in the case discussed here, the two parents were in disagreement about the severity of punishment. Bringing it to court setting undoubtedly strained the co-parenting relationship as well, which trickles down to the daughter.

The goal of a co-parenting plan is to minimize stress between parents. When parents feel stress, children reflect it back. It's in the best interests of your children that parents minimize conflict or the kids will response negatively.

It's hard to read about parenting today without reference to the role of social media. Yet, adults and guardians need to remember that it's used by all generations. Co-parents need to adopt plans for how social media will be used, whether that means to share family photos, vent about stressful situations or to use it for discipline.

Parenting is never predictable, but laying out a framework provides a base to work with. There will inevitably be times of conflict between co-parents, as well as with cohabitating parents. A well-written parenting plan will serve as a guideline for how to react in those scenarios so they do not escalate into new family rifts that affect your kids.

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