Virtual Child Visitation

Family courts in California and elsewhere are issuing online virtual visitation orders in lieu of in-person child custody orders. But are virtual visitation orders in the best interests of the child?

Virtual visitation reconfigures the very notion of what a parent is. Marshall McLuhan in his groundbreaking book, “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man” (© 1964) recognized that the content of a message is inextricably modified by the medium in which it is embedded. That is to say, the medium (book, radio, telegraph, TV, phone, Internet, etc.) embeds itself in the message and, consequently, the medium becomes the primary message. McLuhan described the "content" of a medium as a juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind. In the 1970's American media seized on McLuhan’s insights and began exploiting the marketing potential inherent in McLuhan’s insights. Soon, the federal government likewise grasped the social engineering potential inherent in McLuhan’s work and began efforts which have produced today’s obeisant, obsequious Citizen Sheeple.

The sad truth is Americans are oblivious to the impact the medium (of a message) has on individual minds and on society at large. Corporations control the dissemination of information via the television and Internet and are adept at getting viewers to focus on the irrelevant content of their messages while the medium slips past the watchdog of the mind and into the subconscious. While the story “content” mesmerizes the viewer, the viewer is manipulated to respond in a pre-determined fashion. For example, a story about an arsonist setting a wildfire in Southern California mentions in passing the “water shortage” in Southern California thereby imparting (and reinforcing) the “mediums” real, albeit hidden, message e to the viewer which is “conserving water is everyone’s duty”. George Orwell’s “1984" focuses on the content of Big Brother’s message but misses the crucial importance of Big Brother’s subversive medium sans content.

Virtual visitation likewise unconsciously re-configures what a parent is: a moving picture within a frame that talks to you. Nothing to touch or smell; no one to pick you up, to walk into your room, to hold your hand; no shoulder to cry on; no three dimensional person or environment. Just a one dimensional colored image that ceases to exist with the push of a key. Ultimately, virtual visitations are as impersonal and lacking in experiential value as watching the talking heads who announce the news.

Euthenics is the art and science of controlling man’s environment by controlling the quality of the information he receives. From a euthenics perspective, virtual visitations fabricate counterfeit experiences that leave children (literally and figuratively) empty handed and hungry for human contact. Garbage in, garbage out. The digitally created parent is perversely transformed into the new “real” parent in the unconscious mind. This is not to say that the facsimile parent is not psychologically seductive. It is. This is why courts and parents are drawn to virtual visitations like moths to a flame.

Before extolling the virtues of virtual visitations or expanding the use of virtual visitations in custody cases, courts must carefully craft guidelines delimiting under what circumstances virtual visitation is not appropriate. Much like the days of yore when courts handed out mutual restraining orders without determining who the aggressor was, courts are now issuing virtual visitation orders without concern for the monumental long-term, negative impacts visual visitations are having on an entire generation of children.

If McLuhan’s findings are not enough to convince a court of the inadequacy of virtual visitation, then accept as conclusive proof the personal experience of every child who prefers having his father or mother at home to a “virtual relationship” with one parent.

Virtual visitation orders should only issue where the only other option is no visitation. Even then an argument could be made that no visitation is better than virtual visitation because of the detrimental long term negative impacts the message hidden in the medium itself has on how the human mind structures itself around a counterfeit notion of “parent”. At the most subtle level of brain functioning, virtual visitation is a profound form of child neglect, especially on younger children. Be that as it may, virtual visitation orders should never be issued where face-to-face visitations are feasible.