Virtual Visitation Handbook
What is Virtual Visitation?

What is Virtual Visitation?

“Virtual Visitation,” also known as electronic communication or e-access, is an electronic form of “face time” or other electronic communication between parent and child. Examples include: email, instant messaging, interactive game playing, video conferencing, video clips by email or posted on the web. With increasing speed of transmission and falling prices for equipment, parents and children can enjoy high quality electronic communication for moderate cost. The popularity of smart phones has made video conferencing more accessible and easy to use. As of June 2011, virtual visitation statutes have been adopted in six states.1 Virtual access is intended to enhance and supplement but not replace face-to-face parenting time with a child. This can help parents and other relatives stay connected with the child, for example, when away on business, traveling on vacation, or on military deployment.

Why use Virtual Visitation?

Virtual Visitation reduces the time and space separation between parents and their children. Video conferencing allows parents and children to see each other as well as hear each other. Even children too young to use the phone on their own can participate (with some help) in a video call.2 It’s a bonus for parents to see their child frequently during the early years when the child is growing so rapidly. Bonding is enhanced when a young child can relate the face and voice of a parent or other relative who is not physically present on a daily basis. Frequent contact helps reduce a child’s separation anxiety, sadness and feelings of abandonment. Older children are accustomed to the virtual reality of electronic communication and appreciate the increased access to their parents, filling in the gaps between face-to-face contact. Electronic access can be used for a parent and child to discuss their day, read stories, play games and help with homework.

1 Utah (2004), Wisconsin (2006), Florida (2007), Texas (2007), North Carolina (2009) and Illinois (2010). Legislation has been introduced in Missouri but has not yet passed into law. Electronic communication may be agreed upon between parents or ordered at the discretion of a judge at the current time.

2 Infants at three months of age can distinguish facial features in pictures, and by age three can type simple commands on a standard keyboard. Children can use word processing programs as soon as they begin to read and write. Child Development, by Larua E. Berk, Viacom Press (4th edition, 1997). About 75% of children have watched television before age two and over 40% of children under age two watch television every day. See www.pbs.org/parents/childrenandmedia.