Social Media and Your Family

Over the last ten years, social media has had an unavoidable impact upon almost everyone’s lives, whether it is Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat or Pinterest.

Solicitors and Sheriffs have to grapple with the ever-changing ways in which people communicate with each other. Regularly, screenshots of social media pages will be lodged in Family Court actions and also actions concerning protective Orders, such as Domestic Abuse interdicts or non-harassment Orders.

You need to be aware of what you say online. The privacy settings on your own social media page can be at the highest possible setting, but do you know exactly which Facebook “friends” are actually friends, and which ones still have connections with your ex-partner? Most lawyers specialising in family law would ideally have their clients delete all social media pages if they have a tendency to share too much online. However, if you aren’t prepared to go to that length, then always be vigilant about your posts. Many years ago, a client of mine told me that she had discovered a way to stop herself from posting anything on her social media which would impact on her case. When I asked her what this was, she explained to me that she had replaced her existing password with my name! This was enough to give her pause for thought, each time she logged on.

Social Media and your children

Even if your separation has long been formalised and perhaps your divorce already granted, if you are co-parenting with your ex-spouse or ex-partner, social media can still have an impact.

With the rise in social media use amongst children; cyber-bullying, online harassment and “trolling” is also on the increase. Parents need to be alert to their child’s internet use both in their own home and also the home of their ex-spouse or ex-partner and elsewhere. Ideally, parents would reach an agreement with each other, setting down ground rules which would apply in both homes. If you and your ex-partner both share equal parental rights and responsibilities in relation to your child then you are both legally entitled to have involvement in the decision-making process, particularly where it relates to children’s welfare.

Co-parenting is a challenge for most separated parents and you and your ex-partner should try and discuss either directly or with the assistance of Family Mediation, your joint approach to your child’s social media use or other matters in dispute. One of the things you may consider is the open sharing of your children’s social media passwords so that either parent can, at any time, have access to a child’s social media pages in order to monitor the content. The appropriateness of that will depend on the age of your child.

Remember, social media is supposed to be an enjoyable form of communication and entertainment for yourselves and your children. It shouldn’t be a point of contention or disputes. When it comes to children, it is not the fact that their parents are separated that causes the damage, it’s the exposure to arguments and animosity.

For more tips on co-parenting see Macleod & MacCallum’s Co-Parenting article here.

Jenna Thomson

Jenna Thomson
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November 15, 2016