Online safety in split-parent households

Managing a split-parent household is challenging enough, and adding the issue of online safety into the mix could cause even more stress on the family dynamics.

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Written by Cyber Expert:

Yasmin London

Former Police Officer

Last modified Dec 20, 2021

Liaising between separate households, custody arrangements, and potential step-families living under the same roof are all factors that need to be considered when working out cyber safety arrangements amicably. Situations where one parent believes an app or game is appropriate for their child, but the other parent doesn't are common. Feelings of anger and resentment could cause some parents to go against decisions made by the other; however, presenting a united front and not engaging your child in the battle should be the main priority when parents separate.  One way to help achieve this is to have a clear agreement that all family members understand.

Top tips for managing cyber safety between two households

  • Aim to have regular informed conversations between parents and maintain a united front when making decisions (use research and evidence to reach an agreement).
  • Agree on a family device policy that clearly outlines which devices can be used by your child, when they can use them, and the games and apps they are allowed to access. If possible, agree on the number of screen hours permitted across both homes, remembering to include screen access when they are with grandparents or other caregivers.
  • Try to be consistent across households; for example, if one parent prefers no devices at the dinner table, it's better if both parents enforce this. 
  • Share concerns between parents, identifying low or high risks. If the risk is high, it may be better to meet in person to discuss. 
  • Consider installing parental controls on all devices that both parents can monitor. 
  • Aim to reach an agreement regarding social media, including which platforms your child can access and what they are allowed to share.
  • To help keep things professional, follow up in writing with any concerns raised or agreements made verbally. 

What it all comes down to

When parents separate, it can be extremely stressful for the whole family. Heightened emotions and feelings of anger and resentment can predispose some parents to do the opposite of what the other wants. Unfortunately, decisions made in this manner tend to have the most negative impact on the child. Having consistent tech rules enforced across both households will benefit your child's mental health, allowing them to thrive. In addition, maintaining a clear agreement within each home will help your child understand your expectations. As a result, they will be less likely to be sneaky and dishonest when it comes to their online activities. By all means, seek your child's input when working out cyber safety arrangements; however, it is your role as parents to agree on any decisions made.

Making decisions without consulting your co-parent may have negative ramifications down the track, so it's better to support each other and come to a mutually acceptable arrangement to avoid arguments later.  As always, the priority regarding your child's technology use should be to ensure that any agreement made is in their best interests, and both parents should aim to achieve this respectfully and amicably.

Further reading

Parent Guide to Screen Time

Our experts' guide to healthy screen time management.

How to set up a cyber safe home

Our simple ABC model is a practical and effective way to create a safe online environment for your family.

Setting a digital agreement

Ever feel like you and your kids just aren’t on the same page when it comes to things like how much screen-time they should have, or how they should ...

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