Internet addiction is here and is real. I would like to hear from you on this topic. Do you know that a Kaiser Family Foundation study showed that two-thirds of parents have no rules on internet use, particularly internet use unrelated to homework and research? Today’s second Ask Carolyn continues a discussion of this topic.
Do I really need to send my children to visitation with their father? I mean, do I have to force them to go? They really don’t want to go? Shouldn’t the children be given a say in the situation? Their father is a doctor and he thinks it is his way or the highway. All he wants to do in his spare time is fish, so what does my 12-year-old daughter, who hates worms, have to do when she is with her father? Fish, of course. My 10-year-old son is a little better with the worms, but even he would rather do some other activities some time. When we negotiated our custody agreement, we agreed that the child’s wishes would be considered, but not controlling. The agreement was put in a court order. The court order also says I have to make reasonable effort to give the father access and promote a feeling of affection. I hate this man, which is why I divorced him. This father is threatening me with contempt when the children refuse to go. Can I be held in contempt for not sending them?
Carolyn Answers …
Simply stated, yes the judge can hold you in contempt. The judge can put you in jail as punishment for contempt. Further, I have seen at least one judge hold a teenager in contempt for not going on visitation and put the teen in jail for contempt – that one made the headlines in Greensboro a number of years back.
“Forced visitation” is one of the most difficult issues for family law. I personally find in some cases I come in contact with that there is some element of mental illness somewhere in the broken home family dynamic. Mental illness is at the root of the problems when one parent is virtually alienated from the children. A possible root cause might be a narcissitic father that only sees activities from his point of view – i.e, the fishing in your question. My suggestion to the father would be to ask the children to plan a dream trip for the father to take them on, and then take it with them. Get away from the scenery here for a couple of weeks, and no fishing on the trip unless requested by the children.
Another possible root cause might be mother is a parental alienator who doesn’t see the psychological harm that not having a father-child relationship has on her children. The mother must get past her own feelings for the father and recognize her children have different needs than she does. You hate the man, but your children do not need to share that feeling.
You might want to google the case of Noojin v. Noojin, a South Carolina case on forced visitation where the mother was held in contempt for not requirig the children to visit with their father. In Noojin, the mother was a psychologist and the father was a medical doctor. This mother didn’t require the children to visit even though there was a court order that required visitation. The children even blocked the father’s phone number on their cell phones. The children in Noojin were 10 and 12. Since when are parents not in control of 10- and 12-year-olds? This mother should have known better and employed appropriate discipline techniques to get compliance with the court order.
My child is 13 and has an iPhone. All he wants to do is text his friends and play games. It started with me allowing him to play Candy Crush on the way to school in the morning. Now it is almost like he is addicted. The phone is interfering with his eating and bathing. What do I do?
Carolyn Answers …
Internet addiction is real, folks. Your teen needs to detox from the internet, and detox now. Get an experienced addiction therapist on board, but my practical thought is the teen needs three months of no screens to detox. I do not use the word detox lightly, but internet addiction can be as harmful as other forms of addiction. Early intervention is key.
I would recommend to you the PBS film Web Junkie. China was the first country to recognize screen addiction or internet addiction as a clinical disorder. The teens in China were becoming disconnected from life and reality. “Reality is too fake” is becoming a motto for many teens.
China created a treatment program for teens, which is quite interesting. Look at the Daxing boot camp, operated much like a military boot camp for the United States Marine Corps. The Daxing boot camp is a three-month residential detox program to break the screen/internet addicts of the addiction. While the program might seem draconian, the program works. Internet addiction is real and it causes neurological, psychological and social issues. The child’s brain literally rewires itself.
Parents, it is the games on the internet that create the greatest risk. Candy Crush was not a good babysitter on the way to school. That should have been a time for parental interaction, looking at the trees and flowers on the way to school, or assessing the weather.
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Note that answers are intended to provide general legal information and are not specific legal advice for your situation. The column also uses hypothetical questions. A subtle fact in your unique case may determine the legal advice you need. Also, please note that you are not creating an attorney-client relationship with Carolyn J. Woodruff by writing or having your question answered by Ask Carolyn.