Foster parents often have many concerns about internet safety. You are probably wondering what programs are out there to help monitor social media and if you should set up house rules. We’ve found some resources for you and we hope you find them helpful. If you as a foster parent have any advice to share with other families, please send it to us.
It is important to work with the child(ren) in your care to set up rules and discuss how social media accounts will be monitored. AdoptUSKids has a good article about teen social media use and what you can do to help them use social media. This article provides a list of questions to ask yourself about where you stand in regard to social media and has some conversation points for talking with teens. Here is the article: https://www.adoptuskids.org/about-us/news-and-announcements/story?k=social-media-teens
You might wonder, how do you set up social media rules and how to you monitor their account closely? Common Sense Media has created a useful worksheet for setting up family media agreements based on the age of the child(ren). This worksheet has the goals of staying safe, thinking first and staying balanced. Examples of a family media plan include agreeing to not give out private information, not setting up an account without permission, only sharing passwords with family and not filling out forms with personal information. Reminding kids to “think first” is an important part of this plan – kids needs to remember to be kind when they communicate online and to remember that the internet is public and information can spread fast and far. To view this family plan to either use or create one of your own, visit the following link: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/imce/educatefamilies_fma_all.pdf
Facebook offers advice on how to “Play it Safe.” Review the child’s privacy settings with them and show them the Activity Log feature that lets them review and manage what they’ve shared on Facebook. The Facebook advice page can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/safety/groups/parents/ Parents should also keep a close eye on the child(ren)’s friend list to see who they are friending and if they are appropriate. An article published by Missouri University states “if adolescents have few friends on Facebook, foster parents need to find out whether they have other, hidden online profiles or if they’re having problems making friends.”
Here are some more resources as you navigate social media and how it can work for your family and the kids in your care.
WV DHHR Policy on Social Media and the lives of foster/adoptive children:
3. It is the policy of the DHHR/BCF to encourage normalcy in the lives of foster/adoptive children. As such, it is acceptable to post photos of a foster/adoptive child(ren) in family or group setting (school, sports, sleepovers, parties, etc.) on social media. However, in any social media posting,(photographic or print) foster/adoptive parents are prohibited from releasing any information regarding: the fact that the children are in a foster/adoptive circumstance, the foster adoptive child(ren)’s previous custodians, geographic or demographic information that could jeopardize the foster child(ren)’s safety, or any other information that would breach the confidentiality provisions of West Virginia Code Section §49-5-101. These prohibitions continue even after any placement has ended. Furthermore, for the safety of the children, it is strongly advised that all such postings be made on private settings, to be seen by the foster/adoptive parent’s friend groups only and not posted publicly.
If you have any questions about social media use, we encourage you to have a conversation with your worker.