A Guide to Co-Parenting in the Digital Age

What happens when divorced parents don’t agree on technology use?


Published:

Marie Foshay’s stepdaughter lives 700 miles away, which means she and her husband don’t get to see her as much as they would like. It also means that they have to watch from a distance as the 14-year-old accesses technology that they prefer she not.

“Her mom wanted her to have a phone when she was 12,” Foshay says. “She is deaf, so the phone gave her a way to communicate, which is great, but we feel it is a responsibility she’s not fully equipped to handle.”

Since receiving the phone two years ago, Foshay has watched with concern as her stepdaughter has joined social media platforms and has shared questionable content. Foshay’s husband’s has reached out to his ex-wife to express concerns about their daughter’s social media use. Those conversations have only led to more conflict, Foshay says, which leaves her wondering, “How do you police from afar and hope that nothing bad happens?”

 

Finding Common Ground

Jonathan Hetterly, a licensed professional counselor at Southeast Psych and the father to two teenage girls, understands Foshay’s predicament. He helps parents navigate this topic in his practice.

“Technology use can be a hot topic for parents who are no longer together, as they take issue with each other’s differing philosophies and feelings about technology and its use,” he says. “It’s also a hot topic for parents who are still married, but obviously, an additional dimension of conflict and working through the differences arises when they are not together as a couple.”

Hetterly advises parents to take this approach when discussing their child’s technology use with the other parent.

 

Don’t put the child in the middle. Before any discussion takes place, it’s important to remember to not place the child at the center of the potential conflict. 

“Whether this is an intact family unit or a co-parenting situation where the parents aren’t together in a relationship, disagreements and differing opinions are common and normal, and kids can learn to navigate different parenting styles and beliefs,” Hetterly says. “But deception and hiding or aligning a child against a parent is not a healthy behavior and will have consequences far beyond just the issue of technology.” Hetterly warns that if a parent models, endorses or coerces kids to hide something from the other parent, the child can learn that being dishonest is acceptable.

 

Be the role model. If you take issue with your child’s technology use, be sure to first examine your own habits. 

“Parents need to model their own healthy use around technology,” Hetterly says. “Kids tend to model and internalize what they are exposed to more than what they are told. Another key thing is that we lose our high moral ground or authority when we don’t emulate that desired behavior in our own life.”

 

Understand why your child uses that technology. Start with asking yourself why your child uses or desires to use the technology to begin with, whether it’s a specific device, social media platform or game. There may be positive reasons behind technology use, such as if the child and parents are separated by geographical distance.

“Kids could rely on social media to communicate and stay connected with friends, family and peers away from them for a sustained period.” 

A parent can lose footing with their child if the child views them as irrational and reactive, but by asking why their child is using social media and other digital platforms, there is opportunity to open a line of dialogue to see what is positive and negative about their digital activity. That doesn’t mean that a child always gets what they want, but it does help them to feel heard and that their opinion matters, which is important, Hetterly says. 

 

Don’t sweat the small stuff. “Everything tech is not equally objectionable, risky or problematic,” Hetterly says. “Parents can’t lump all technology together and react the same way to each topic or area.”

He recommends that parents differentiate the majors and the minors or the positives and negatives of the technology in question. More and more research is coming out about the effects of screens, gaming and social media, so take some time to read up on what the “majors” and “minors” might be, and share pertinent information with the other parent.

 

Find the compromise. Once ground rules are established and there is an informed understanding of the technology in question, open a collaborative line of dialogue with the other parent.

 “When it comes to the parents and co-parenting, start with what you already agree on,” Hetterly says. “Perhaps you agree on curfew, turning in the smartphone at night and not having it in bedroom, specific social media platforms that are allowed or not allowed. Whatever those areas of agreement are, start with a foundation of what you agree on before tackling the area of differences because that can help diffuse potential conflict.”

Of course, the hope would be that finding common ground and having a conversation will resolve the issue, but sometimes that will not be the case. Sometimes the best approach is to agree to disagree, especially if the disagreement is over the small stuff.

“When the parents are not on good terms, it’s more common that each home has different rules. It’s not ideal, but often it’s the best-case scenario if they experience high levels of conflict.”

 

Seek remediation. If the conversation is leading to conflict and you feel that technology is negatively impacting your child, Hetterly advises professional help. 

“I recommend remediation over hiding, deceiving or putting the kid in the middle where they get mixed messages and they don’t know who to trust when it comes to their parents.”

Hetterly reminds us that, “Compromise is a mature strategy when it makes sense. Don’t be afraid to bend your position. You aren’t losing.”

 

Meagan Church a freelance writer. She lives in Charlotte with her high school sweetheart, three children and a plethora of pets. Connect with her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @mchurchwriter, or visit her website www.meaganchurch.com.

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July 2020

Have a fun night with the family at the ballpark.

Cost: $10-$15, children 3 and younger free

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Sims Park
1001 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way
Gastonia, NC
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Cost: Free

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Matthews United Methodist Church
801 S. Trade St.
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1721 N. Davidson St.
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Carowinds
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Sponsor: Authentic Teaching
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DefyGravity Trampoline Park
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Cost: $8, $10 on weekends and school holidays

Where:
Superior Play Systems
11415 Granite St.
Suite C
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DefyGravity Trampoline Park
8116 University City Blvd.
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Cost: Free

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The Billy Graham Library
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Cost: $8, $10 on weekends and school holidays

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Superior Play Systems
11415 Granite St.
Suite C
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Cost: $5 per swimmer, max $15 per family

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Goldfish Swim School
13403 S. Ridge Drive
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Cost: $8; free for children 13 and younger

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5555 Concord Pkwy. S.
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Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

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1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
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Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
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Cost: $11 for one hour

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DefyGravity Trampoline Park
8116 University City Blvd.
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Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
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Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
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Drop in for safe play on the equipment indoors.

Cost: $8, $10 on weekends and school holidays

Where:
Superior Play Systems
11415 Granite St.
Suite C
, NC
View map »


Website »

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Explore the Mint Museum's exhibitions without charge.

Cost: Free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph, 2730 Randolph Road
Mint Museum Uptown, 500 S. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC
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Telephone: 704-337-2000
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Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
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View map »


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Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
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View map »


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Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
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Cost: $21-$31

Where:
New Hope Baptist Church
2024 Redbud Drive
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $11 for one hour

Where:
DefyGravity Trampoline Park
8116 University City Blvd.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows presented faith of Jesus Christ in song. Come discover the ways the Lord used their efforts and their music to open hearts around the world. Read inspiring...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
Website »

More information

Drop in for safe play on the equipment indoors.

Cost: $8, $10 on weekends and school holidays

Where:
Superior Play Systems
11415 Granite St.
Suite C
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Hear live music every Thursday, June 4 through August 13. Bring chairs, blankets, and money for food trucks, beer, wine and sodas. See website for lineup.

Cost: $5 per person (free for members); $5 per car for parking

Where:
Anne Springs Close Greenway
291 Dairy Barn Ln.
Fort Mill, SC
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Website »

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Cost: $6 for parking

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Website »

More information

This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art examines the rise of three-dimensional objects issued in editions, which emerged as an international phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls, which includes the artistic, social, political and historical aspects, as well as the physical barriers like fences or sand berms. The space is...

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for our Pinkyswear Virtual Kids Triathlon event. This virtual event which kicks off formally on June 1st for all ages and abilities, and the triathlon can be completed anywhere! The...

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Drop off your little ones to explore, play and learn during Music Mondays, Theater Thursdays and Food Fridays. A small snack is provided. Register online.

Cost: $21-$31

Where:
New Hope Baptist Church
2024 Redbud Drive
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Toddlers can enjoy a special jump session every weekday morning. With each child age 6 and younger, an adult may jump for free, not including DefyGravity socks for $3.

Cost: $11 for one hour

Where:
DefyGravity Trampoline Park
8116 University City Blvd.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows presented faith of Jesus Christ in song. Come discover the ways the Lord used their efforts and their music to open hearts around the world. Read inspiring...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
Website »

More information

Drop in for safe play on the equipment indoors.

Cost: $8, $10 on weekends and school holidays

Where:
Superior Play Systems
11415 Granite St.
Suite C
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $20

Where:
Tiny Blooms Yoga
15905 Brookway Drive
Suite 4106
Huntersville, NC
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Teach or play with your child in the heated pool.

Cost: $5 per swimmer, max $15 per family

Where:
Goldfish Swim School
13403 S. Ridge Drive
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free admission

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Resident Culture Brewing Company
2101 Central Ave.
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Cost: Free

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Sycamore Brewing
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Cost: Free

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Live the story of Stephen and the Apostles. Experience the rousing power of ANNO DOMINI: the year of our Lord while enjoying a Greek dinner.

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NarroWay Theater
3327 Highway 51
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Website »

More information

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Cost: $6 for parking

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Website »

More information

This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art examines the rise of three-dimensional objects issued in editions, which emerged as an international phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theatre
3327 Hwy 51
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View map »


Sponsor: NarroWay Productions
Telephone: 803-802-2300
Website »

More information

This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls, which includes the artistic, social, political and historical aspects, as well as the physical barriers like fences or sand berms. The space is...

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for our Pinkyswear Virtual Kids Triathlon event. This virtual event which kicks off formally on June 1st for all ages and abilities, and the triathlon can be completed anywhere! The...

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

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Cost: Free

Where:
Kings Mountain Historical Museum
100 East Mountain St.
Kings Mountain, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows presented faith of Jesus Christ in song. Come discover the ways the Lord used their efforts and their music to open hearts around the world. Read inspiring...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
Website »

More information

On Saturdays and Sundays from noon-5pm, the arcade bar opens to all ages with a parent or guardian present.

Cost: Cost for games

Where:
Abari Game Bar
1721 N. Davidson St.
, NC
View map »


Telephone: 980-430-4587
Website »

More information

Live the story of Stephen and the Apostles. Experience the rousing power of ANNO DOMINI: the year of our Lord while enjoying a Greek dinner.

Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theater
3327 Highway 51
Fort Mill, SC  29715
View map »


Website »

More information

The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library presents monthly story times at 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. every second Saturday of the month.

Cost: Free

Where:
Northlake Mall Live 360° Games Court
6801 Northlake Mall Drive
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: Northlake Mall
Website »

More information

River Jam brings live music outdoors, right in the middle of the world’s largest man-made whitewater river. Hear music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, as well as during each of...

Cost: $6 for parking

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Website »

More information

Bring chairs and blankets to watch movies in the park. Concessions will be available for purchase. The second Saturday of the month, May through September with a Halloween special on Oct. 17. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Stowe Park
24 S. Main St.
Belmont, NC
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This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
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Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art examines the rise of three-dimensional objects issued in editions, which emerged as an international phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
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The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
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See the original, Broadway-style dinner show, and experience the story of Stephen and the Apostles. See website for showtimes.

Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theatre
3327 Hwy 51
Fort Mill, SC
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Sponsor: NarroWay Productions
Telephone: 803-802-2300
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This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls, which includes the artistic, social, political and historical aspects, as well as the physical barriers like fences or sand berms. The space is...

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
, NC
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Join us for our Pinkyswear Virtual Kids Triathlon event. This virtual event which kicks off formally on June 1st for all ages and abilities, and the triathlon can be completed anywhere! The...

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
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Annual Guides

G.P.S. [Go.Play.See]

Your guide to raising kids in the Queen City, plus our 2019 Readers' Favorites for places to play, explore and learn with the kids.

Education Guide

A comprehensive guide to independent, private, charter and public schools in Cabarrus, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Union and York counties.
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