I’d like to hear your thoughts on screen time for children ages 6 and older.
I have two children ages 4 and 7 and am going through a divorce. Their father has half time and I have half time. The problem is screens. I disagree with the way their dad allows the 4- and 7-year-olds to use screens. There are virtually no restrictions. The 4-year-old is gaining weight from lack of physical activity. The 7-year-old watches something on a screen through most dinners at his father’s house. The problem is that I look like the bad guy when I enforce time limits on screens and remove screens at dinner and bedtime. What do I do?
Carolyn Answers …
This is a growing problem in family law, and I hear about the disconnect between households where children live under two roofs almost daily. This is a major parenting issue and I strongly recommend that you have guidelines for screens in your child custody order. If you cannot agree in mediation on guidelines, ask the judge for screen guidelines. Here are some thoughts for guidelines for your child custody order.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has a new set of guideline recommendations for screen time for children and adolescents. Before getting to the specifics of the AAP recommendations, there are family policy issues to consider.
The very first consideration is that families need to be extremely thoughtful regarding the entire family’s use of screens. Why? When you use a screen, such as an iPad, smart phone or another digital device, you are selecting to do that activity over another activity – which should be a conscious decision. Use of screens can become an addiction and can interfere with the need for balance with physical exercise, sleep, homework, artistic endeavors and meals.
Second, the parents should be a screen mentor for the child regarding the healthy use of screens and should teach the child the use of screens for the proper reasons, such as learning or connection with another human.
Third, there should be family guidelines for when there are no screens allowed, such as at meal time or bedtime. Perhaps the screens should be left overnight at a charging station, well away from the children’s bedrooms, or perhaps even in the parents’ bedrooms to make sure the children don’t sneak screen time in the middle of the night.
Fourth, teaching a healthy use of screens also involves teaching how to use respect in communication and a discussion of reporting bullying to the parent. With these recommendations in mind, let’s look at the guidelines.
Let’s start with the wee little ones. For infants and toddlers under the age of 18 months, the AAP recommends no screen time, except if required for video chatting with an absent parent or grandparent. Of course, the video chatting would be limited in duration and supervised.
For ages 18 months to 2-years-old, the parents need to discuss whether the introduction to screens is right for their child. If the parents decide to introduce screens to this age child, then the programming should be high quality and a parent should watch with the child and explain the media to the child.
For ages 2 to 5, limit screen time to one hour per day. The parent should spend time with the child watching the screen and explaining. A screen is not a babysitting device in this age group. Bubble Guppies is a great program for this age group, but not for three or four hours a day.
For ages 6 and older is where it gets difficult, and the AAP did not make a suggestion on how many hours to allow per day. I personally think that one hour of “free” screen time for anyone should be the limit. Of course, homework may require a screen, but free time should have some limit, as there are other things in life than screens – sports, music, dance, homework not on a screen. Each parent has to decide for that family what the rule should be. This is often a problem for children if they live with parents in two separated households with different rules. It is imperative that parents in separated households try to have similar rules for screens.
I am going through equitable distribution. I am from China but am now a US citizen. My estranged husband is also from China and has a green card, and he has opened businesses in the United States. We also still have property in China that was created during our marriage. My husband denied that we have property recently in his deposition. What can I do to get my half of the property in China?
Carolyn Answers …
Oh, boy, there are several countries that are quite difficult to prove the existence of marital property. To name a few, India, China and Greece. The land registry system in India is non-existent, and there is huge government control in China. You are going to have to look for a way to prove to the judge here in North Carolina that the foreign property is owned, such as with pictures, other records and family testimony. Your ex has apparently lied in his deposition, which means statements are made under oath. If you can garner enough proof to persuade the judge, then you are on the way to destroying your estranged husband’s credibility.
You might ask your lawyer to look at the 2016 Conits case out of South Carolina. Mr. Conits was a Greek immigrant with property in Greece and South Carolina. Ms. Conits successfully proved that Mr. Conits was lying about the property in Greece. The court punished Mr. Conits in that case. Also, you might look for a family lawyer with experience in international assets.
You also must ask that all of your equitable distribution share be from property located within the US. Otherwise, collecting will be a major problem.
Send questions on family law and divorce to firstname.lastname@example.org, or P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro 27427 or at Ask Carolyn’s comment section at rhinotimes.com.
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.