Group of children of different nationalities sit in a row on the windowsill and with lack of emotion … [+]
Age of Child Custody Emancipation:
In most of the United States, the age of emancipation, freedom from the custody and control of your parents is age 18. Until that age, the child’s parents have control over the child’s person and finances and where and when they will reside there and with whom. Most child custody agreements or court orders of custody are for children up and until the age of 18.
General Rules of Behavior:
If parents are trying to work out a custody agreement for their today two-year-old daughter, the agreement must be able to reasonably foresee all events until the child is age 18 or the year, 2038. Some things in a child’s life are easy to foresee, such as Bat Mitzvah celebrations, Sweet Sixteen parties, high school graduation, college prep and college applications. Rules of general behavior between households should be agreed upon, especially in co-parenting agreements, such as bedtime, potty training, preschool day programs for preschool age children and homework rules, study habits, curfews, age of driving lessons and licenses, dating at what age, piercings, tattoos, and use of social media. And once they are using social media how much screen time should the child be allowed daily?
It is this last item that Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s custody dispute over their 8 year old daughter placed in the news media.
When Parents Don’t See Eye to Eye Re Their Child Being on Social Media?
Kanye West and Kim Kardashian are discussing whether their daughter, North, age 8, should have a TikTok account. Many parents use age 12 as the date by which they cannot keep their child off social media and thus that is the date that appears in many custody agreements even though the parent may be the one who needs to open the account with or for the child. However, like Kim Kardashian, who has created North’s TikTok account and shares it with her, when it is an adult managed account in the adult’s name, it is hard for the other parent to find it unless you are Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. Once the child is online, how do you get them off, especially if one parent is supporting their online activity?
History of Relevant Social Media:
It is important to recognize that social media use in child custody agreements or disputes is of recent relevance in child custody agreements or court cases. A look back at when some of the biggest platforms were introduced makes this area near impossible to predict as who could have thought of TikTok in 2016 or Instagram in 2004, and included either in a child custody agreement?
Facebook: On September 26, 2006, Facebook opened to everyone at least 13 years old with a valid email address (initially restricted to students of Harvard and then in 2004 became available to all college students).
Instagram: On October 6, 2010, the Instagram iOS app was officially released through the App Store.
Snapchat: Initial release on September 2011.
TikTok: Launched initially in China in September 2016 under the name Douyin. The app was launched as TikTok worldwide in August 2018.
What new platforms will be developed over the next 16-18 years that we don’t know about and can’t imagine how they will be used or their impact on children and teens?
Monetizing the Internet:
Children with large social media followings can make small fortunes as “kidfluencers” wearing items of clothing or using products promoted by them online. Most of these accounts are parent-influenced and treat 4-year-olds as if they are adults, holding up a Starbucks cup and commenting on adult fashion trends.
Pop Singers who got their start on social media:
We are all familiar with pop culture singing stars who got their start on YouTube such as Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes or TikTok sensations Olivia Rodrigo and Lil Nas X. What parent wouldn’t want to assist their child in perfecting their art and jump starting their career?
YouTube: Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendes, Cody Simpson, Carly Rae Jepson
TikTok: Lil Nas X, Olivia Rodrigo
The Dark Side of Teen Internet Usage
In 2021, France Haugen, leaked internal documents and went public as a whistleblower accusing Facebook of repeatedly making decisions to incentivize profits and growth over users’ wellbeing.. Among the dangers she exposed were children being led from healthy recipes to anorexia related content.
In February 2022, in Naples, Florida, Ava Maury’s Dad, a retired police officer, shot dead an armed stalker who had come to Ava’s home having followed Ava on TikTok Instagram. Ava is 15 and her parents said she would stay on TikTok where she makes $1700 per video.
What should you do regarding your child’s internet use?
Child psychologists break down the amount of screen time by age of the child. Common-sense rules and modeling must prevail. If you are on your phone all the time in the presence of your child, it will be difficult to keep them from doing the same thing. Most experts suggest the age of 13 as appropriate for social media accounts depending on the level of the individual child’s maturity. Be mindful of the age at which the child can obtain their own social media accounts. Facebook (now Meta) allows them to do so at age 13. YouTube requires children ages 13-17 to open an account with parental permission. Thirteen is the minimum age for a TikTok account. Instagram requires a child be age 13.
If you and your co-parent cannot agree on the age at which your child can use social media, the assistance of a child psychologist or therapist to guide you and provide information as to monitoring the social media usage of your child is encouraged. It is important to draft agreements with language broad enough and inclusive enough to include new versions of social media not known at the time of drafting. If a parent wants to open an account for a child younger than age 13, this might be an area of serious disagreement and dispute in which mediation, or a parent coordinator could be of assistance.
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