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Should we include social media use in our parenting plan?

Raising kids today is nothing like it once was. Gone are the days when kids rode their bicycles all day and came home when the streetlights went on. Today, kids are more likely to meet up online than in person. This is particularly true of children who are reaching adolescence. From ten onward, whether online gaming or through social media, our children are spending a lot of their free time meeting up socially through their gaming systems or phones.

The New York Times recently explored the role social media plays on our nation’s youth. In the recent piece Being 13, a journalist explored the reality of the role social media plays on the lives of teens by following three thirteen year-olds from different parts of the country for a year. These teens shared their experiences and allowed the journalist access to their phones. The publication shares the ups and downs, from the innocent daily communications with friends to the more concerning moments like chatting with someone the teen met online and sharing personal details — one of every parent’s biggest fears.

The reality of parenting struggles often falls somewhere in the middle. What if too much phone use is impacting the child’s grades or taking away the opportunity for them to partake in extracurriculars and build social skills through actual interactions? How do we navigate these realities? This is a struggle for every parent, but it becomes even more difficult to navigate when the parents divorce. Children often spend time going between two households when their parents are divorced. How do both parents have consistency when it comes to phone use? Is consistency even important?

Although the exact answers will vary for each family and for each child, it can help to understand the potential legal tools that parents can use to help set their families up for success when it comes to this and other parenting issues after the divorce is finalized.

What role does Tennessee law play in phone use for our children after divorce?

Although the law does not have an exact provision with a clear answer on this question, it does encourage parents to put together a parenting plan when going through a divorce. This parenting plan outlines when each parent gets time with the child including holidays, vacations, and summer break as well as how the parents will handle logistics like insurance. These agreements can also include rules on general behavior. For younger children, this can touch on bedtime and potty training, for older children it can address homework, curfews, and social media.

Ideally, both parents can come to an agreement on the appropriate age and time limits for social media use. Unfortunately, as this is a relatively new issue in custody cases there is not a lot of case law to help us know how the courts will handle social media concerns during or after a divorce when parents disagree. As such, it is helpful to have discussions and negotiations about this and similar issues and attempt to come to a resolution when drafting the parenting plan.

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