Part One – Safeguarding
For any parent, being aware of your social media presence and who has access to any images of your child is of the utmost importance, and this is particularly true for adoptive parents.
Making new social connections is now easier than ever, which could have a huge effect on those who have been part of the adoption process.
We spoke with social workers, Sarah and Sandra, who gave us some tips on how to keep yourself safe on social media, talking to your child about social media, and the practical tools you can use to monitor your child’s social media use.
Where to start?
Navigating conversations about social media is often a minefield, not only because of the constant developments, algorithms and ease of connecting with people, but also due to the permanence of our digital footprint.
To start with, it is important to make sure your security settings are up to date and that you’re mindful of any app updates which may alter your settings without your knowledge. Updates to social platforms can sometimes mean safeguarding processes are bypassed and contact can be made between adopted children and birth families.
Why is it important?
Social media is an inevitable part of any parent’s life. It has never been easier to have an account and share your adoption story. It is also easy to keep your child safe, provided that you understand how social media works and maintain a good knowledge of best practices.
As an adoptive parent, you know the background of your child and the risk factors of them being easily recognised online. You may choose to be slightly more open on your personal account, and some of the issues we discuss below may not be necessary for your situation.
If you have a younger child, it is likely that you will use social media for quite some time before it is appropriate for them to have their own account. This is brilliant news when it comes to speaking to your child about their personal accounts in the future, as it means that you will employ all the safeguarding measures to keep them safe and can set a really great example of what content is appropriate for social channels.
So, what should you be doing?
You probably already know the basics of staying safe online, such as setting your profile to private and avoiding publishing images of your child – but what more can you take into consideration?
Keeping yourself anonymous:
Primarily, it is important that you are aware of which parts of your profile are accessible to people that are not on your friends list. Although switching your profile to private will stop others from being able to see most of your content, double check that things such as your cover photos, profile pictures and tagged photos are private.
It is also worth considering how recognisable you would like to be in your profile picture and cover photo, especially if you have met your child’s birth parents prior to the adoption taking place. You may also wish to change the name of your profile to something that may not be as easily searchable from people who don’t know you but letting your friends and family know of the change.
Keeping your child anonymous:
Many adoptive parents feel safer by using a nickname instead of their child’s first name when referring to them on social media. Taking this approach and avoiding any recognisable images of your child is one of the safest ways to ensure they are protected online.
If you’d like your child’s identity to remain completely anonymous, be aware of any personalised toys, family photographs, school photographs, activity group photos or other identifying features in the background of images.
Many children who are now reaching adulthood may have adverse feelings about the images from their formative years being shared online by their parents. Consent is crucial, and Sarah and Sandra encourage all parents to stop and think about whether their child would be happy with a particular image being shared when they are old enough to have a social media account of their own.
Be careful with your searching habits:
It’s also important to bear in mind that platforms such as Facebook and Instagram recommend friends and followers based on accounts you view. So, you may end up coming up as a suggested friend if you spend time searching for a birth parent’s social media pages.
What to do if you're unsure:
Whilst contact with birth parents isn’t always something to be avoided it’s important that this is done in a controlled environment, with consent from both parties. Contact plans will assist you to consider the best type of contact for your child and should be discussed with an adoption professional so that you feel confident that what you are agreeing to feels comfortable for you and is manageable in the longer term. Approaches made over social media do not tend to offer both conditions.
If you have any questions on what more you could be doing to protect your child online, or you’re worried about a social interaction – we’d encourage you to contact your social worker who will be able to give you further advice and guidance.