As employment opportunities and travel take parents across the world, technology is making communication with their children more available than ever before. Parents who live in a different state from their children or who work in a travel-intensive industry experience difficulty maintaining visitation schedules and spending in-person time with their children. Luckily, as our the world evolves, our increasing familiarity and comfort with technology is helping us come up with new ways to solve this problem.
A relatively new wave of electronic communication now permits parents to stay in touch with their children more often through the use of programs such as Skype, Google, and FaceTime. These programs provide video conferencing that allows parents and children to see and interact with each other in a far more satisfying manner than the traditional telephone conversation. As a result, courts and legislatures are responding to the phenomenon. For example, seven states passed laws including electronic communication in the statutory definition of visitation. Illinois’s visitation definition includes electronic communication as a supplement to in-person time between a parent and a child. It defines electronic communication as “electronic mail, instant messaging, video conferencing or other wired or wireless technologies via the Internet, or another medium of communication.” 750 ILCS 5/607 Ch. 40 Par. 607. In response, 19 states, including Missouri, are considering legislation for the inclusion of electronic communication.
Many parents have used this technology to read to their children at night and to participate in special events, such as graduations and birthday parties, while deployed.
However, virtual visitation is designed to supplement and not to replace face-to-face parenting. It provides a platform for parents to connect with children. It is especially beneficial for young children to relate a face and a voice with a parent whom they do not physically see on a daily basis. Older children, who are already accustomed to the electronic communication age, will readily accept and appreciate the increased contact available between visits.