How to Manage Digital Parenting Rules With Your Co-Parent

Mother and daughter talking on couch

Parenting in the digital age is hard. When to let your child have their first phone, setting screen time limits, and deciding whether to monitor your kid’s device are among the difficult choices parents must make. But how do you navigate co-parenting and cell phones? 

It’s common for parents to disagree on these issues, but separation or divorce adds even more complexity to maneuver. In fact, family law experts cite decisions about the use of devices as one of the most significant sources of conflict during divorce. 

Hard as it may be, it’s vital that parents get on the same page about digital parenting rules. Read on for tips on negotiating the tricky waters of co-parenting and cell phone rules. 

Why it’s important to set rules with your child’s devices

Children need boundaries. Not only do they help keep kids safe (and help them feel safe), but they’re also an important part of development. Boundaries help children develop self-discipline and learn to set their own limits. 

When it comes to boundaries, technology is no exception. From safety issues like online predators to the negative consequences of too much tech, the evidence is clear that children need rules in the digital world. 

Why it’s important for co-parents to align on rules

You and your co-parent may not see eye-to-eye on things like how much screen time is okay for your child or what apps they’re allowed to download. But it’s important to find a middle ground, rather than arguing or talking behind each other’s back. 

Research consistently points to the fact that parental conflict negatively affects children. Although conflict is normal and inevitable, how you fight matters. The biggest concern when it comes to children is destructive and unresolved conflicts between parents. These can contribute to a child’s emotional insecurity, which may lead to difficulties managing their emotions and behavior, mental health problems, and social and academic struggles. 

If you’re actively going through a divorce or separation with your co-parent, this major transition can further overwhelm your child. 

Children may not admit to liking boundaries, but they do need them; they make a child feel secure. On the other hand, unclear and inconsistent boundaries can set the stage for power struggles and conflict with your child. Therefore, it’s important to do everything you can to present a civil, united front with your co-parent. 

Essential tips for co-parenting and cell phones

Here are some tips on how to collaborate with your co-parent to create digital boundaries for your child: 

  • Don’t be afraid to set rules: Oftentimes, divorced or separated parents have a difficult time saying no to their child. But remember that limits are important for children’s safety, security, and development. 
  • Focus on the facts: Leaning on the evidence helps remove emotion from digital parenting decisions. Come to the conversation with information on healthy screen time limits, responsible social media use, and cell phone monitoring. 
  • Take it slow: If things are particularly contentious, it can help to spread the discussion over multiple settings, focusing on one tech issue at a time. 
  • Put your child first: Remember, this is about your child’s wellbeing, not about winning an argument with your ex. 
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out for help.:If your efforts aren’t getting you anywhere, consider enlisting the help of a therapist, attorney, or mediator. 

How to present a unified front

It’s important to present a united front to your child, both while you’re hashing out digital rules and after you’ve come to an agreement that you and your co-parent can both live with. 

Here are some tips: 

Don’t burden your child with your problems 

Arguments between parents are adult issues. Keep your kid out of it, and resist the urge to badmouth your co-parent around your child. Not only is it emotionally harmful for your child to feel like they have to act as the go-between in parental conflict, but it’s also difficult to convince them to follow the rules if they know you disagreed when setting them in the first place.  

Be clear and consistent

It’s important to implement the new boundaries clearly and enforce them consistently.  Consider putting your new rules in writing. Documenting expectations about digital behavior helps minimize future conflict and creates accountability for everyone involved. Including the rules, expectations, and consequences in a digital device contract that you, your co-parent, and your child regularly review and discuss.

Get digital support 

Using a monitoring app ensures you and your co-parent operate with the same set of facts about your child’s online behavior, which can minimize conflict when enforcing digital rules. BrightCanary helps you supervise your child’s text messages on Apple devices, plus their activity on TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and Google.

With BrightCanary, you can share a subscription with your co-parent if you have Apple Family Sharing enabled in your iCloud settings. You’ll both need to create separate BrightCanary accounts and log into the platforms you wish to monitor for your child. Once set up, you can review their online activity and receive alerts for any concerning content directly from your phones.

The takeaway 

Divorce and separation add to the difficulty of setting and enforcing digital parenting rules. But it’s important that co-parents align on tech boundaries and present a united front to their child. 

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