Foster Children & Social Media: How To Stay Safe
Social media is a fact of life for many children and young people nowadays, so as a foster carer you should aim to make yourself aware of the uses, as well as the potential issues, social media networks can bring.
We understand that many foster parents have enough on their plates already, without having to think about the impact social media may be having on the children and young people within their care. As knowledge is certainly power when it comes to the internet and social media, we highly recommend that as a foster carer you take the time to discover how the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat all operate.
One thing is for sure, social media does allow children to keep in touch with their peers, develop stronger digital skills and have a chance to broaden their horizons. However, the use of social media does have the ability to cause a few problems, especially within foster children.
Partly due to their vulnerable upbringing, children and young people in foster care may be unaware of the dangers of social media, to which issues such as cyberbullying and online grooming are real. Contact with birth parents can also be a unique challenge faced by foster parents.
Monitoring Social Media Usage
Being able to safeguard and regularly monitor the use of social media within foster children is an ideal solution for any foster parent. Here at Perpetual Fostering, we certainly understand the benefits and potential hazards the likes of Facebook and Twitter do have, so we firmly believe all foster parents should be provided with adequate training, support and advice that keeps children and young people safe and secure in all aspects of their life.
In fact, the safeguarding procedures that are put in place by our team have been recognised by Ofsted as being ‘good’, especially for the ways in which our team of experienced social workers assist our fostering community to reduce the risks and improve the wellbeing of all children and young people in our care.
Tips for keeping foster children safe on social media
Effective communication is, and always will be, the most powerful tool available to a foster parent when it comes to developing a healthy and open relationship with a foster child. However, there are several pro-active steps you can take to ensure the safety of foster children in the age of the internet and social media.
Don’t be afraid to open up a discussion
During the early part of the foster placement don’t be afraid to ask foster children about their social media usage. In particular, you should aim to find out which social networks they mainly use and how they do indeed use them.
Establish a set of rules
Whether it’s only being able to use social media for certain periods during the day, or asking about the messages that are being sent, you should definitely consider setting a number of rules that a young person must adhere to. Remember, each foster child is different and will require a different approach when it comes to social media safety.
Prepare to monitor and teach
Sneakily monitoring their social media usage by conducting activity searches when they’re not around will certainly send out the wrong message. Instead, aim to keep computers and tablets in ‘family’ spaces and set suitable privacy settings on their accounts.
Inevitably, some children and young people will make mistakes when it comes to social media, rather than punishing their errors, you’re likely to gain a greater response by showing how they can learn from any mistakes. Telling foster children not give out personal details or accept friend requests from people they do not already know is also important!
Speak to our social workers
If you have any concerns about the issues of social media in foster care, don’t hesitate to discuss these with one of our highly experienced social workers. Alternatively, you can always seek further advice from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.
You may not realise it, but being able to keep abreast of a foster child’s social media activity is an important element of modern day fostering. If you’re wanting to know more about fostering with a leading foster agency, or if you’d like to speak with a member of our team about whether you’re eligible to become a foster carer, we’d love to hear from you!