"You are their parent, not their best friend."
A child’s development can be a time of uncertainty without the event of a parental divorce, but when you throw that in there, they can feel lost in the process. Given the variety of stages in a child’s development, what they lean on to help them cope through the trauma of the experience is entirely dependent on their maturation, but from childhood forward, there is one that moves with them in their development: the internet.
The internet continues to be an ever-expanding medium, where people gather to learn and connect with one another. As a child of divorce, it is understandable for your child to want to connect with others. They need to feel like the bonds that they can make in relationships with other people can last, since for many children, the most reliable bond in a relationship within their lifetime, has broken. Their search to make sense of the situation is what brings them to the internet.
As their parent, you are obligated to keep an eye on the content that your child is exposed to, and given the internet’s vast array of content available at the click of a mouse, that obligation becomes even more of a necessity. As much as it may seem like the right thing to do, being the cool parent, you cannot let your kids go do whatever they wish to do, out of fear of being ‘the uncool parent.’ You are their parent, not their best friend.
One of the most frequented gathering spaces on the internet is social media. Sites like Facebook and Twitter garner millions of individuals. According to Pew Research Center, 89 percent of teenagers using social media, and more than half of children use social media by the age of 10, according to Medscape. Additionally 91 percent of teens go online from a mobile device, making it increasingly difficult to monitor their online activities.
Monitoring your child’s social media and online activity requires understanding their behaviors. Given the internet usage varying between computer and mobile devices, it might seem impossible to garner a read on your child’s online activities, but many parents manage. According to research, 48 percent of parents have said that they have looked through the phone call records or messages on their child’s cellphone. Additionally, 61 percent of parents have said that they have checked which websites their teenager has visited, and 60 percent of parents have reported checking their teenager’s social media profile.
Even though parents have taken a look at some of their child’s activities online, it does not necessarily mean that they have taken advantage of every technological resource that could give them a better picture of their child’s online activities. Only 39 percent of parents in the Pew Research Center research reported turning to parental controls or other tools to filter, block, or monitor their child’s online activities, and only 16 percent reported using parental controls or monitoring tools to restrict, filter or track their child’s online activities on their cellphones.
As a child of divorce, your child is going to need their parents to engage in their day-to-day life, even if one is not always present. According to Psychology Today, a child’s need for independence is intensified if they are a child of divorce. This is especially true for teenagers, whose rebellious nature forces them to pull away, become less communicative, and feel angrier than before.
This does not bode well for their online activity. As a child of divorce and a developing adolescent, the level of rebellion and independence that they could be at could result in social backlash on social media, inviting outside critique and possibly even cyberbullying. This can cause damage to the child’s mental and emotional health, putting them at risk for child and teen suicide.
Comfort during uncertainty
This situation can often be due to the nature of the internet itself, as a method of staying occupied. Children have endless avenues on the internet at their disposal to amuse themselves and to communicate with one another. In fact, 71 percent of teenagers use more than one social network, according to Pew Research Center. Among the most popular are Facebook, Twitter Instagram, Google+, and Snapchat.
These mediums allow children of divorce to escape the uncertainty of their own lives, and sometimes, it even allows them to communicate with the noncustodial parent. It allows parents to keep tabs on their child’s activities and maintain a sense of being close with the child, even when that is not physically possible, according to The Huffington Post. Keep in mind that this behavior could get back to the other parent and be used in a negative way in your custody case.
The need to keep an eye on a child’s online activities is a reflection of a parent’s vigilant attitude and need to protect their child, and while at younger ages, it’s needed to protect them from aspects of the world that they are not ready for, the adolescent ages also are significant to monitor. One of the more important aspects of the vigilant attitude is to respect your child enough to stay communicative with them, regarding their online activities. Ask them about what sites they like to go to. Foster an honest relationship, in hopes that they will be honest with you.
When divorce occurs, a child can feel split in half, and finding new forms of expression can be a comfort in these moments. The internet can feel like an exciting new medium, where that comfort can be a certainty in their daily life, but as their parent, seeing how this medium is used can help you assess their daily activities and emotional expression, in order to better understand your child as a person.