Safeguarding children online during divorce proceedings

In this day and age, there are very few children who don’t have some sort of online presence–whether directly, or through their parents. We know divorce can complicate digital presences even further, so we’re sharing some thoughts on safeguarding children on social media on the blog.

What's Inside

What's Inside

Children’s lives have become increasingly intertwined with the online world, a phenomenon that’s accelerating with every passing year. This connectivity can be a double-edged sword, offering new opportunities for learning and growth but also exposing them to a lot of potentially harmful information, especially during divorce proceedings. Seasoned family law attorneys who do their best to safeguard children online face a number of intricacies to address. 

The digital landscape that children inhabit is vast. Social media, messaging apps, online gaming, and various content consumption platforms are now integral parts of their daily lives. While these platforms can serve as a means of communication between parents and children, there’s always the risk that they become avenues for conflict and manipulation. Courts often need to address online interactions in custody arrangements, where the potential for emotional manipulation and intimidation through digital means could go unnoticed. Online communication could become an influential factor in custody judgments.

Issues of online child safety arising from family law cases

In addition to the harmful factors listed above, there are a number of other online risks that may affect kids who are part of their parents’ divorce proceedings. Harassment of children from divorcing or separated parents, for example, is one. Parents may sometimes use social media to air grievances, engage in character assassination, or involve children in their disputes which can not only negatively impact the child’s emotional well-being but can also be used as evidence in custody battles.

It’s not just divorcing parents who pose a potential risk to children online. The internet is also a breeding ground for predators attempting to contact kids through social media. Children who post on social media divorce-related family problems may be seen by those who wish them harm online and who may post as a helpful friend or confidant to try to build an inappropriate relationship with that child. 

According to an online media company MarketSplash, they found that “17% of [tweens] have received emails or online messages containing words or images that made them uncomfortable. However, only 7% of parents are aware of such incidents.”

Parents sharing information about their children online – from photos to personal details – may also need to consider that when family disputes arise, this information can be weaponized, leading to potential privacy breaches and emotional harm to children. Parents may even use fake social media profiles to spy on their ex-partners or engage in “catfishing” schemes to discredit the other parent. These tactics can harm a child’s perception of trust and security.

Constant exposure to online conflicts can also have a profound impact on a child’s mental health. Stress, anxiety, and depression can result from witnessing parental disputes on social media or being subjected to online harassment. These effects can be long-lasting and affect a child’s overall well-being.

How do attorneys contribute to safeguarding children online?

Each family law case is very different, though many may have commonalities. As an attorney assisting families during divorce proceedings, there are ways to help keep children safe, though the list of ideas below is non-exhaustive.

  1. Encourage your clients to establish clear guidelines for online communication. These should include respectful conduct, boundaries, and expectations for both parents and children.
  2. Recommend that parents use monitoring software or applications to ensure a safe online environment for children. This proactive approach helps to protect the child’s emotional well-being during divorce proceedings.
  3. Encourage parents to educate themselves about what platforms their kids use and the associated risks. Parental responsibility in fostering digital literacy is important.
  4. Emphasize alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation to mitigate conflicts arising in online communication. 
  5. Educate your clients about the importance of adjusting privacy settings on social media platforms to protect their children.
  6. If the child is mature enough, consider their opinions on online exposure when crafting legal strategies.
  7. Consider seeking temporary orders to address online exposure concerns until a permanent custody arrangement is reached.

Keeping children safe from harm online during divorce proceedings is an evolving challenge – and not an easy one. To address it, stay informed about digital platforms, cite relevant legal precedents, and advocate for responsible online conduct. In that way, you may be able to positively impact the well-being of the children you represent, whether directly or indirectly.

Share with

Bottom line

Our experienced team would love to help you move forward. Schedule a free 15-minute call so we can connect you with an experienced attorney.

Book a free call

Disclaimer: This article is provided as general information, not legal advice, and may not reflect the current laws in your state. It does not create an attorney-client relationship and is not a substitute for seeking legal counsel based on the facts of your circumstance. No reader should act based on this article without seeking legal advice from a lawyer licensed in their state.

This page includes links to third party websites. The inclusion of third party websites is not an endorsement of their services.

Share with

More resources