Love it or hate it social media is a reality of all our lives. Whether it’s Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook or Twitter use of these sites is widespread and increasing all the time, particularly by the younger generation.
One of the challenges this presents when parents separate has been highlighted in the media recently in relation to Peter Andre and Katie Price’s children. While Katie sees no issue with her children, Junior, 11, and Princess, 9, having social media accounts Peter has been less enthusiastic.
Managing children’s use of social media is difficult enough for parents when they are together.
So what is the position as separated parents if you can’t agree on the right approach to this issue?
It is likely that neither of you will be in a position to legally overrule the other. This is because as parents you will both usually have parental responsibility for your child. It is this parental responsibility that means you are entitled to be involved in decisions about their lives, regardless of how the children’s time is shared between your homes.
For more information read: Parental Responsibility – Who Makes The Decisions.
It is also best for your children if you don’t become involved in conflict over the issue which can cause them upset and worry. It is not unusual for children to experience a sense of guilt when their parents separate. If children then see their parents in a dispute over an issue concerning them it could increase those feelings of guilt.
For further advice please read my blog on Parenting Before and After Separation.
If you are in conflict it is also unlikely either of you will achieve the outcome you feel is in your child’s interests.
It may be best therefore if you can reach a compromise in your approach. Although one parent may feel strongly that such use should be banned entirely it may be that if restrictions and controls are put in place they could be reassured as to the security of the sites use. There are a wide range of parental controls available.
Similarly, you may be able to agree that some social media is acceptable but not all forms. At some stage, it is likely your child will be involved in using such sites so perhaps a gradual and controlled introduction could be considered. This will work far better if both parents are involved.
If you can’t agree on an approach together as parents then you could consider attending mediation where an independent third party can assist you in reaching a decision as to how you manage social media in your child’s life.
Ultimately, if you are unable to find a way forward and remain in dispute you could apply to the court to consider the issue and determine what access your child should have to such social media.
The court would be guided in reaching its decision by your child’s welfare. The age limits imposed by the sites themselves will be very influential. A court is also likely to be critical of you as parents if you are not able to fulfil your parental roles by addressing this issue yourselves.
A family law solicitor will be able to provide more detailed advice on this issue to assist you in reaching a solution with which everyone can be comfortable. Contact the children law solicitors at Slater and Gordon Lawyers on freephone 0800 916 9055 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help.
Sarah Jane Lenihan is a family lawyer with expertise in legal disputes over child arrangements. She works from the Slater and Gordon's London office.