Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are no strangers to the social media spotlight. But when it comes to their children’s use of social media, the two have become locked in a nasty standoff. The crux of it: Kim has allowed 8-year-old daughter North to post on Tik Tok through an account she and North run together. Kanye is vehemently opposed to his daughter using the popular video sharing app, venting in an all caps Instagram post that tagged Kim:
“SINCE THIS IS MY FIRST DIVORCE I NEED TO KNOW WHAT I SHOULD DO ABOUT MY DAUGHTER BEING PUT ON TIK TOK AGAINST MY WILL ?”
Kim responded to Kanye’s public criticism in a statement of her own, posted in her Instagram stories:
Kanye’s constant attacks on me in interviews and on social media is actually more hurtful than any TikTok North might create. As the parent who is the main provider and caregiver for our children, I am doing my best to protect our daughter while also allowing her to express her creativity in the medium that she wishes with adult supervision—because it brings her happiness. Divorce is difficult enough on our children and Kanye’s obsession with trying to control and manipulate our situation so negatively and publicly is only causing further pain for all. From the beginning I have wanted nothing but a healthy and supportive co-parenting relationship because it is what is best for our children and it saddens me that Kanye continues to make it impossible every step of the way.
I wish to handle all matters regarding our children privately and hopefully he can finally respond to the third attorney he has had in the last year to resolve any issues amicably.
Which co-parent should have the final say in whether or not their minor child can use TikTok? For answers, let’s look at legal rights around children’s social media use that can help Kim, Kanye and other battling co-parents find workable solutions.
Social media is still a gray area in shared custody situations
When deciding custody issues in divorce, co-parents must come to agreements on how much time children will share with each parent, where they will live, and also how parents will share legal custody, which includes making decisions around issues such as schooling, medical care and religious upbringing.
Making decisions about a child’s social media use is an issue that doesn’t quite fall into the category of legal custody, for a few reasons. Parents are presumed to have rights to free speech, and in our modern age, this can translate into posting photos of their children on social media. Kim is the adult in charge of the Tik Tok account, and so it’s technically her free speech to post within reason, including content generated by her daughter.
Also coming out in Kim’s favor is the right of parents in shared custody situations to establish and enforce their own “house rules” when it’s their turn for solo parenting time with their children. Child psychologists advise that is beneficial for children if their co-parents enforce the same rules for things like bedtimes and amount of screen time allowed. However, there is no legal requirement that parents must enforce the same rules.
Social media use is generally lumped in with similar hot button parenting issues such as whether the child is allowed to play video games and time allowed watching TV (and the content of the TV shows allowed). If they don’t or can’t strike an agreement, generally, each parent can call the shots on these issues when it’s their turn for parenting time.
Is social media use causing harm to the child?
Now here’s the but…which Kanye and any other parent concerned about their child’s social media use will want to pay attention to: The parental right to determine “house rules” ends whenever permitted behaviors and habits pose harm to the child or are otherwise not in the child’s best interests.
For example, one co-parent may permit their 8-year-old child to watch horror movies when the child is in their care, despite objections from the other co-parent. Over time, the child has nightmares and develops intrusive thoughts related to the movies and can’t sleep, which interferes with school and the child’s grades drop. If the horror movie watching is allowed to continue, the co-parent who opposes it can go to court to formally request an order prohibiting the movies due the harm it is creating. In extreme situations where the co-parent doesn’t comply with a formal order, the courts may decide to curtail their parenting time until they do.
Applying this same standard to social media, if social media poses a risk to the child or has demonstrated itself as harmful and not in their best interests, the courts could issue an injunction against it.
Is there harm in Kim and Kanye’s situation with their daughters use of TikTok?
Kim makes it a point to note in her response: “I am doing my best to protect our daughter while also allowing her to express her creativity in the medium that she wishes with adult supervision—because it brings her happiness.”
Could Kanye rebut this? Red flag issues he should be on the watch for include:
- Are there negative/explicit/harassing comments being made about North as a direct result of the TikTok account? Kim has turned off comments on posted videos, but what about other places the videos may be shared by users where others are free to comment? If North has access to these (i.e., if she has a smartphone in which she’s free to browse the internet), Kanye may be able to show the courts a risk for psychological harm to his daughter. Comments threatening violence or harm could also be flagged as creating a high risk situation for the family. If the courts agree, social media use could be curtailed.
- Terms of service violations. In a new Instagram post from this weekend (that’s since been deleted), Kanye posted a screenshot of TikTok’s terms of service, which indicates that chidden under 13 years old have limited access within the app and limited exposure of what they post. However, Kim appears to have already rendered this TOS clause a moot point by registering the account (KimandNorth) in her name first and by explicitly stating in the account bio: Managed by an adult. Kanye may be out of luck on this point, but if you have concerns about your own kids’ use of social media, checking the TOS for age violations could turn up evidence if favor of deleting or restricting the child’s account.
Create a separate social media agreement as part of your divorce settlement
The best way to avoid all the social media drama? Stop it before it starts by creating a social media agreement as part of your divorce.
Kim and Kanye announced their divorce in early 2021. Since then the pair have been in negotiations over the issues of their divorce, including custody. A smart play to bring clarity to their co-parenting would be to negotiate a separate agreement over social media use that both co-parents agree to abide by. A temporary agreement could cover this in between time and the final terms could become part of the divorce agreements. Terms may include:
- Limits to social media postings by co-parents. Parents agree to refrain from posting negative rants or criticisms about each other.
- Parents may agree to refrain from any posts or photos showing their children on any accounts.
- Rules around use of social media by children. By hashing out social media use around the negotiating table, it gives each co-parent a chance to have their views heard and understood by the other. The goal of any negotiation is compromise. So what could be the compromise here? Possible terms might be: 1. Kanye could request that Kim allows him to review any social media post before it goes live. 2. The co-parents could agree to other limits related to how much time can be spent on social media apps and/or how the child accesses social media sites (i.e., social media use can only happen through a parent’s phone while being supervised). 3. Kanye could ask for a timeline for regular review of North’s social media use to decide whether or not, overall, it’s in her best interests to continue. This could include an outside evaluation by a counselor or psychologist.
- Age restrictions. Kanye could negotiate for a minimum age requirement be met before 9-year-old North uses social media. As a possible guideline, he could ask for TikTok’s TOS for children age 13 be followed.
Is social media a sticky co-parenting situation? In today’s day and age, absolutely. However, with calm discussions about what’s truly best for their children, co-parents usually can come to reasonable agreements.
In Kim and Kanye’s case, the advice they may need most is to stop fighting about their children’s social media use — over social media. The ability of their children to freely see their parents arguing in such a public way isn’t helping this situation and may end up being what causes the most harm.
Have questions about your custody situation? Curious about creating a social media agreement? We can help. Schedule a consultation with one of our highly skilled family law attorneys and get answers to all your custody and divorce questions. Start safeguarding your future today. Call us at 888-888-0919, or please click the green button below to schedule your strategy session.