You got a divorce. (Hey, it happens.) You tried to stay together with your spouse for the sake of your child, but you two just couldn’t work it out and felt it was best to separate. You now worry about how it will affect your child in the long run. “What will it be like now that my kid won’t be around both his parents together?” “What will happen now that I can’t be there for my child all the time?”
If you can relate to this, you are certainly not alone; it’s tough for any divorced parent (and their children) to go through such a life-altering change. It’s important to understand the implications your divorce has on your child as much as possible so that you can reduce the divorce’s negative impact in the long run. You want to know how to keep your child safe, particularly in settings where your kid spends the most time… say, online.
How a Divorce Could Affect a Child’s Online Use
Let’s face the facts: getting a divorce (in most cases) means you won’t be with your child all the time. For example, you won’t be able to watch over your kid when he/she spends time with your spouse.
That said, kids rely on the Internet – social media, online gaming, etc. – and use it as an outlet to replace their negative emotions with positive ones. In addition, the Internet is always available to them and they feel more in control in that environment. If they go through a real-life problem, they might use the Internet as an outlet to relieve their stress.
What’s worse, however, is if they rely on the Internet too much and their outlet becomes an online addiction. This can lead to several conditions, including depression, anxiety, pessimism, difficulty in concentrating, insomnia, irritability, and more.
|Want to learn more about what you can do when facing the negative effects of social media? Refer to this blog about taking Internet breaks.|
To prepare yourself for conversations with your child about their reliance of Internet-related activities, here are a few tips for you (and your spouse) to make sure you’re doing job as a parent.
Recognize the Elephant in the Room
Using the Internet is unavoidable nowadays. It’s the main way we keep in touch nowadays. Pretending your kids can’t access a computer or phone without you is naïve at best. Instead, set some ground rules in your home so they understand why you have rules about what they do.
Remember: you control what happens in your home.
2. Set an Example for Your Child
Managing your kid’s online lifestyle requires more than just tech time outs. In other words, being a monitor and setting guidelines for your child shouldn’t be the only thing you do to make sure your parent is safe online. Relying only on that method might seem too authoritarian.
Think of yourself as your child’s cyber safety guidance counselor. As a parent, it’s more important to be a role model by demonstrating what to do in the online world. If you’re on your phone 24/7 when your child is with you, guess what: it teaches them to be attached to their device 24/7.
You may have less control of what your kid does outside your home, and that’s okay. Your first job is to manage what happens in your own home. Build your trust with them so they can think with the values (aka ’netiquette’) you discussed with them.
3. Have a Good Co-Parenting Relationship with Your Ex
Just because you got a divorce doesn’t mean you cannot be cordial with your former partner. After all, you have a child together. For the sake of your child, it’s still your responsibility to protect your child by communicating with each another about the things that impact him/her.
As your child spends increasing amount of time online, talk to your ex and figure out what they know about cyber safety. Once you start the conversation, try to collaborate about how you will co-parent your child about their online use.
If you disagree on any online issues – for example, your ex-spouse disagrees on how you implement your kid’s use of social media – it’s important to establish a system so that your child doesn’t get mixed signals for what’s right and wrong. Focus on what you can do together and less on the things on which you believe are impossible to reach a consensus.
It might also be a good idea to get their input, as well. Get your former partner’s insights on the situation and see what comes out of that conversation.
This leads to the final point:
4. Listen to Your Ex’s Responses
Let’s take it a step further and say that your ex does not want any monitoring of technology or so social media whatsoever. They think people overhype issues like online addiction, cyberbullying, and cyber exploitation and think you are crazy for believing what they say.
First of all, the disagreement might be a reminder of why you got a divorce; you wanted different things and simply have to agree to disagree. Don’t hold grudges or spread any animosity towards them (or at least keep it to a minimal amount).
Refer to the last sentence in Point #1: “You control what happens in your own home.” If your parenting strategies for how your child should use the Internet doesn’t match your ex-spouse’s, use it as a learning opportunity to bond with your child even with your child about online issues. At the very least, it shows that you care about your child’s well-being and it provides reasoning for why you safeguard your child’s electronic devices.
There are situations in life that are not ideal. They can affect you dramatically and they can affect your child dramatically, as well. In the end, it’s important to recognize that circumstances like a divorce can severely impact a child and lead them to use the Internet as a safe space.
You know the truth: the Internet is not a safe space. In fact it can be very dangerous if you don’t make well-informed decisions related to cyber-issues.
Whether you’re married or divorced, embrace the opportunity to lay the groundwork. Your children learn by example.
So learn together and learn from each other!
Cherie Morris (Huffington Post)