I am a happily divorced father of three children of which I have sole custody. By Greek standards that is crazy unlikely verging on impossible. Several years later I am glad I never got too worked up about the whole thing. I also realize that technology played a major part. Yeah, I know I am plugging all Google products and yes of course if you want to get technical there are other options, but this is the real world. I have an army of 7-8 phones (including spares and seconds) to maintain. Stock Android and similar look and feel all over for us. And preinstalled apps wherever I can get them.
Here are some pointers for those that are in a less relaxed place than me right now:
- Google Maps. This post is continuing on from a presentation I did recently about the Timeline feature in Google Maps which seemed to resonate. Given permission, Google tracks where you log in from. You can all share location with each other if you like. If you connect to a wifi for example it knows where you are. Or if you have your data connection switched on. So when you get a law suit claiming that on the 23d of some month and year you can’t remember your daughter fell and hurt her chin, you can easily get reminders. What is really cool about timeline is that not only does it show you on a map, but it also combines with…
- …Google Photos. Aha, there is that chin on that very same day and it was a minor scratch. Proof! We also track school reports (just snap), doctor visits (only takes a second. Snap!) or screen grabs of SMS. (No need to snap, just make sure it is backing up the ‘screenshots’ folder – you will have to select it.) Who needs more paper and files around the house? Snap and throw. Google Photos offers a mind boggling infinite amount of space for free and has amazing AI tools for searching them instantly.
- Google Calendar. Kids in divorces have everybody shoving agendas down their throats. Personally I am a soft touch kind of parent. So it is a widgets on their front screen, with our shared calendar in purple for our shared activities. I might spend five minutes getting all his basketball games in there for us all to find easily but it is worth it. If and when he wants to know, it is there waiting for him, right next to the appointment with the orthodontist.
- Google Hangouts. Yes, they use Instagram for their friends, or Messenger or Snapchat or whatever is fashionable. Which leaves Hangouts, the conveniently preinstalled on every Android phone app, for family. Unless they look around Settings, it will ping on top of the game they are playing on the phone without destroying their attempt at a record. If your ex is funny about letting them speak on the phone, use this backdoor.
- Google Docs. It isn’t just about homework. You also have a million multi page legal documents to work on. Sometimes you want to share them with your lawyer, sometimes your kids demand to read them. Again, depending on your parenting style and their maturity you might want the kids to be involved in these documents, to comment, to collaborate, to be able to view if they feel like it sometime at any time in the future, much like….
- …Google Drive which is your shared master memory. Forget saving to physical drives and USB sticks which will get you into trouble sooner or later. Send those important documents to Drive for future reference. If you’re lucky, you will archive them and forget them. If not you might want to dig up those Call Recorder app files which backed up to Drive, or the SMS and call lists in there.
- Google Contacts. I easily export other parents phones from my account to theirs. No excuses! YOU call your friend’s mum to arrange that play date! This also works in reverse as they start saving their friend’s numbers and I can – in emergencies – track down someone in their posse with the damn thing actually switched on.
I can go on and on with such real world examples of how Google is the backbone of our family. My kids got Gmail accounts the day they were born. If it was absolutely necessary I guess I could easily dial in to their Chrome browser history. Haven’t needed to yet and they will be locking me out of their Gmail accounts soon I hope as they approach puberty and don’t need me helping them with it anymore. When a phone is confiscated by your ex, lost or broken (as happens with kids, OK, actually I destroy more phones than they do!) we just log in with their Gmail and all apps, games and contacts reappear magically. For a long time I had all our accounts signed in on my phone for them to play their favorite game when they had to collect chests, feed chickens, collect apples or whatever the current crisis was at the time. Google assistant is a great way to learn English and a fantastic tool for kids in general. We share pictures in Photos which is even more important in divorces for making shared happy memories and coming to terms with the past.
You couldn’t really do all this with any other app ecosystem. Apple’s is restrictive, lacks many key features, makes you pay for others and has way too many hoops for you to jump through. Microsoft is no longer in phones and generally tries to sell these sort of solutions to business customers. So give your kids Gmail accounts, pick up a 150 dollar Chinese Android phone and your family is in business. All you need to do is remember the passwords. Well, actually, you don’t even need to that. Because…
8. …Google Chrome remembers all passwords. ; )