Internet or virtual visitation is when a parent and child use video chat to spend time together. This gives them the opportunity to see each other face to face in addition to talking on the phone and in-person visitation.
Each person (you and your child) has a setup where they are. At a pre-arranged time, you both logon and start your webcam and sound or your video chat app. You are able to see and hear each other almost as if you were in the same room. You can read books together, play games and almost any other activity that you can do in person.
In order to make virtual visitation a part of your custody agreement, you need to have a parenting plan that allows for it. Many states include this in long distance parenting plans as a matter of course now. However, your parenting plan can be anything that you and your co-parent agree upon, as long as a judge signs off. Take a look through this post, which covers some of the virtual visitation considerations in a parenting plan.
Internet visitation doesn’t completely substitute for in-person visitation. Typically, in a long distance parenting plan, virtual visitation is a supplement to in person time together, not a substitution.
For example, a long distance parent might have in person time over summer vacation, holiday breaks, spring break, and other holidays and school breaks, bringing their parenting time in a year to 30-50%. They will also have, typically, virtual visitation access 1 to several times a week for the weeks or months that they and their child do not see each other.
Distant grandparents, aunts and uncles. Anyone who lives apart from a child can spend some time with them via webchat. Internet visitation is even used in prisons now to give inmates access to family members who don’t live close by.
Nothing is a substitute for good supervision. However, never fails, you turn around and they search for something like water sports to find fun stuff to do at the lake over the summer and their childhood is ruined. Install and use child protection software. I’ve used Norton Family with good results. Child protection software can often also protect them on their cell phone and any device they might use.
I am/will be a distance parent. How do I get set up to do virtual visitation?
Time needed: 2 days.
As a long distance parent, you want to make sure that this setup has been included in your parenting plan. Then, depending upon the platform you and your child will be using, it’s pretty easy to get going.
- Using a Computer
You will need hardware including computer, a webcam, a mic and speakers. Many webcams come with an integrated mic. I recommend Logitech webcams (affiliate link) in particular. They are solid, they last and have great video and sound. You can look for a used system or get by with a low end system for well under $500 (affiliate link). If you prefer, earbuds or a headset with a mic (affiliate link) can work as well, in place of speakers and a mic. You will also need to install software for virtual visitation. Skype is a good go-to.
- Using a laptop
Most laptops have an integrated webcam, mic and speakers. They have the added benefit of being able to be wherever you are. As long as you have a wifi connection, you can do virtual visitation anywhere. Using a laptop will also require a software download. Skype is still a good option here
- Tablet or Phone
Also in the portable virtual visitation department, a tablet or phone will also have a camera, mic and speakers on board. You may need to install an app for virtual visitation. Skype is available on mobile devices as well as an app download. lately, I’ve been using Google Duo as well, which I like. However, if you are both on the same carrier, it’s also possible to use the carrier’s video chat option from your call screen.
- When Parent and Child are using different types of hardware
If you are using a computer and your child a phone or vice versa, the only gotcha is landing on software that both of you can use. Skype is ubiquitous, and Google Duo can be used on all mobile devices.