Before a child is placed into your care, acquaint yourself with the world of social media. Feel confident in your understanding of the subject and equip yourself with the knowledge to deal with the potential protection issues.
Think about the whole family’s online reputation. If you, your partner or your birth children use online spaces, such as social networking sites, ensure privacy settings are set to private, check that the shared content is appropriate and that you are only ‘friends’ with people you know and trust in the real world.
Any child placed with you will be looking to you for guidance. As a family, protect your child online by practicing what you preach and setting a good example.
Prepare your home by placing any internet based technology (remember this includes laptops and desktop computers, but also games consoles) into a family space and set parental settings to all of these devices (choose technology from navigation bar).
Where possible, ask your child’s social worker if any of their case history involves behavioural issues or incidents of abuse in the online world.
If this is the case, you will need to approach the risks online sensitively and think about involving their case worker during these conversations.
Before any child is placed with you, find out the different ‘types’ of technologies they own and which ones link to the internet.
Show an interest in these technologies (games consoles, laptop, mobile phone) and their online lives. Write down the sites they use and re visit them before they are placed into your care.
Where possible, set up an account and learn the safety settings. This way you can share an interest, you can act knowledgeable in this space and know how to protect them if something goes wrong.
If you are not internet savvy, ask someone you know who is or get your local library to help you. There are also government courses which you can go on to get you up to speed
Inform your child that you welcome the technologies they use, and you will be aiming to keep them as safe as possible whilst using them.
Set a house ‘contract’, make sure you create it together and address any issues they may have. It should outline what you expect from them and them from you. [template contract will be available]
A placement plan should be agreed at the beginning of a child’s placement. Specifically address IT issues eg should a carer be online ‘friends’ with the child or not. This is based on the fact that child is new to the carers but known to the social worker who should inform them of any particular issues.
An IT plan should be available for all children & young people, not just those where it has been an issue in their past.
Stay up to date with the issues which may arise online and learn the steps you need to take as a carer to protect your child. Any new technology coming into the home should be talked about and parental settings set.
Talk openly and regularly about the positives and negatives of the internet. Try not to demonise the technologies and the sites they use, take an interest and play alongside.
Share anything that worries you with your own/ your child’s social worker.
During and post placement, keep your child’s social worker up to date. Inform them of the steps you have taken to better protect your child in the online world and ask them to ensure that these measures remain consistent in their next placement or if they are returning home.