The concept of internet safety is not new- we all know that it’s important to be careful regarding what information we decide to post online and to not talk to strangers. However, careful use of social media in respect for foster care is especially important, and it’s imperative that you understand the rules so that you can actively protect the child in your care.
It may be natural for you to want to post photos of your new beloved foster child and share your journey as a foster parent with your social media followings. Know that posting photos where the child in your care may be identified is prohibited and can be dangerous. Besides social media, revealing a foster kid’s identity is not allowed in any public postings, including newspapers or articles. Just as importantly, don’t share your child’s or their families’ personal private information. This may jeopardize their safety.
However, this doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to share anything. Many foster parents still share social media posts with minimal information, and no names and no faces showing as a way to still connect with their friends and family. You may crop photos to where the child’s face is not shown, or cover it with a digital sticker or symbol. Come up with a sweet nickname refer to the child, or just use their first initial.
Even when discussing your foster child with someone online in private, it is never okay to share private information. This is in violation of the Division of Child Protection and Permanency’s policy, which is in place for the safety of kids in the system. You may talk with others, but use very general terms and ideas to describe your situation. In turn, be respectful when asking questions about children to other foster parents.
Secondly, we have the duty to protect and monitor the child’s personal use of social media and the internet. It seems that nowadays, young kids are accessing the internet sooner rather than later. Schools are implementing technology as an educational resource, as well. Consider adding parental controls to your child’s phone, or on your family’s Wi-Fi.
Have open, honest discussions with your child about what is and isn’t appropriate, and what sites we should avoid. If your child is younger, keep the computer they use in a common area, where their activity can be monitored. You may also consider setting boundaries, and time restrictions that dictate how many hours your child can access the internet. Don’t paint technology as bad, just teach them what we should stay away from, and why.
Internet safety is often talked about, but when it comes to sharing information about these children, the protection of their privacy and safety is a serious issue. Besides learning about these policies, make sure to inform any friends and family that spend time with your foster children regularly, so they are aware of the rules as well.