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virtual parenting time

Electronic Parenting Time – What You Need to Know

Categorized as Child Custody & Visitation

Electronic parenting time has remained consistently included in parenting agreements for some time in Illinois.  Usually, the electronic parenting time is in the format of video chat, via an application such as FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom, to name a few.  Parenting time via electronic means can still, however, be a bit controversial, depending on each individual situation.

Pros to Electronic Parenting Time

Electronic or virtual parenting time can be very beneficial for families where the minor children might not otherwise see the other parent in person.  Phone calls can be impersonal, especially for a young child, and they are not as engaging as seeing someone face to face on a screen.  Some pro’s of electronic parenting time include:

  1. It can be easier for younger children to engage in than a regular phone call;
  2. They allow face to face contact with a parent who may live a great distance away or who otherwise might not have as much face to face time with a minor child;
  3. Once minor children reach a certain age, they are somewhat easy for a child to facilitate on their own;
  4. They allow for activities that may not be allowed during a phone call (i.e. if using Facebook messenger to conduct the calls, the parties to call have the option of playing games, using filters and doing other things to make the call more fun);
  5. Using certain applications, parents can assist children with their homework during the video calls;
  6. It allows minor children to create or continue a close and loving relationship with a parent faster than if the parent were only afforded time with the minor children in person; and,
  7. For non-video access, such as through iMessage or other messaging platforms, it allows older children unfettered access to the other parent without the involvement of the parent with whom they are residing.
  8. It provides a window into the minor child’s home and the environment with the other parent, which can be a good or bad thing.

Cons to Electronic Parenting Time

  1. A device is needed to utilize the electronic parenting time (usually a tablet/IPad or a cell phone) which can be difficult if a parent doesn’t want a child utilizing their personal device, but also doesn’t want to give the child their own individual device due to age and/or maturity;
  2. It does not truly replace “in-person” parenting time, and cannot be used to replace as such for purposes of a relocation argument in Illinois cases;
  3. If using video chat features, it provides a “window” into the home where the minor child resides, which brings about privacy concerns at times for parents with whom the minor child resides.

Virtual Solutions During Covid

At the beginning of the pandemic, when parents were apprehensive regarding allowing their minor children to go back and forth between their residences, electronic parenting time proved to be useful and a good alternative to exchanging the children.  As more has been understood about covid, most families have resumed in-person parenting time.  Additionally, the emergence of Zoom as a platform for video calls within schools for e-learning as well as other platforms has made minor children and their parents much more comfortable with video chats, on an expedited basis, whereas they may not have become so comfortable so quickly had they not been forced to learn to navigate these platforms.  Now, people are much more open to electronic/video parenting time than they were before, especially those who are technologically adverse.

Electronic Parenting Time Controversies

There are, as expected, several potential controversies with electronic parenting time, as outlined herein.  Some parents are not comfortable with their children having/working devices that allow for electronic parenting time, based upon their age and maturity.  Sometimes, there are issues with using electronic devices to discipline minor children and how that can impact their scheduled electronic parenting time.  Additionally, Illinois courts have found that electronic parenting time does not replace in-person parenting time in situations where a party is seeking to relocate minor children.  Despite all of these controversies, a lot of people stand to benefit from using electronic parenting time. Having a carefully drafted order in which parameters both parents are comfortable with is key to ensuring the success of utilizing this helpful tool.

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