The internet has endless entertainment and opportunity to offer, but it does have a nasty side too. With cybercrime on the rise, it’s important to make sure our families are well versed in online etiquette, from protecting their identities to steering clear of bullies.
Here are the 10 most essential topics to discuss with your foster children to keep them safe as they learn and grow online.
1. Encourage them to share safe selfies
Children, like adults, sometimes share inappropriate photos without thinking about the long-term impact. An image sent to one person can be posted online and seen by thousands, and it can stay on the internet forever. So advise them to only share what they’re happy for the world to see.
2. Keep their personal information offline
Protect your family from potential risks like identity theft. Set social media accounts to private, and remove phone numbers and other personal information from public sites.
3. Make sure they’re old enough for the networks they use
It may sound obvious, but many children lie about their age and set up social media accounts before they should be. Check the age limits and help them understand why some content is not suitable for younger people.
4. Switch off location sharing in apps
Some smartphones share their location with games and apps, which is a risk to the privacy of the people using them. You can turn off location sharing in the settings menu – ask Google if you need instructions for how to find them on your specific model of smartphone.
5. Advise them to only chat and play with real friends
Let your foster children know that some people hide behind fake profiles, so try to only play games and chat with people you know. If you’re unsure who you’re talking to or playing with, don’t tell them who you are or give them any personal information.
6. Explain the difference between friends and followers
Whereas friends are people you know and trust, followers are usually strangers who may have a shared interest but may not have the best intentions. Some kids have hundreds of followers, so advise them to block suspicious people and tighten their security settings.
7. Tell them to think before sharing embarrassing posts
As with inappropriate images, some posts include controversial opinions or silly actions that seem like a good idea at the time, but probably won’t after a few years. Help your foster children understand how to think critically about what should and should not be shared.
8. Deal with cyberbullying
Stay calm and don’t judge if you ever suspect your foster child is being bullied on- or offline. Talk to them, listen and reassure that you can help. Encourage them to save any evidence and not to retaliate. Read more in our bullying article.
9. Prepare them for social media in moderation
Set some restrictions on how much time your foster children can spend online each day, and try to keep to the rules yourself too. It’s unhealthy for anyone, especially a developing child, to spend too much time focusing on a screen and living their life online. Moderation is key.
10. Show them how to be a good digital citizen
As well as being wary of the risks online, make sure your foster children understand that their actions can hurt others too.
They should be mindful not to attack or ridicule opinions they don’t agree with, and they should understand the consequences of peer pressure and offensive content. Only when we all consider each other can the internet be as enjoyable and safe as it should be.