Part Two – Speaking to your Child
It’s more than likely that your child will want to set up their own social account when they enter their teenage or pre-teen years.
There are plenty of great things about social media, but it’s important to educate your child on the not-so-great things and what to be cautious of when posting information online. Adopted children and young people can be put at risk if they share too much online and aren’t aware of the potential consequences.
Our social workers, Sandra and Sarah, emphasise the importance of building an open and honest relationship with your children about social media. A crucial element of this is re-enforcing that it is okay to make mistakes, and that those mistakes can be fixed if they are spoken about.
How worried should you be?
It is only natural for your child to be curious when using new social media platforms – after all, the purpose of social media is to connect with friends, family and like-minded people. Whilst social media is a worry for most parents, after spending years safeguarding your child on your own profile, this worry is likely to be heightened for adoptive parents.
Where to start:
Although we will run through a few practical ways to keep your child safe, the social workers believe that the most effective way to stay safe is through having regular conversations, encouraging honesty and demonstrating acceptance when mistakes are made.
Rather than painting an image of social media as a scary place, you should encourage your child to proactively engage in conversation about what they have seen online, who they are talking to and anything they don’t feel comfortable with.
Talk to your child about the steps you’ve taken to keep them safe on your social media platforms, and the reason why this has been so important. As part of their life journey work, can be helped to understand why this is important and why contacting birth parents or other birth family members on social media is not appropriate.
A good starting point is to check through your child’s social media settings, ensuring that their settings are appropriately set so that they cannot receive messages from people outside of their friends list and their profile is only visible to those they are connected with.
Things to look out for could be your child’s birth date, location, school name, the town they go to school in or organised activities they may be involved. It is not uncommon for this identifying information to be accessible to people outside of your friends list as a default on social media pages.
There are also options to stop your child from appearing in name searches, meaning they can only become friends with people they actively search for.
As a rule of thumb, once all the practical measures have been taken to conceal your child’s identity to strangers, you should always encourage your child to think twice before pressing enter. Whether this is a comment, a private message, friend request, or post – they must understand the potential permanent repercussions of what they say online.
One way to think about it is by asking: would your teacher, future boss (for older young people) or even grandparents be happy with what you have posted or shared? If the answer is no, it’s probably not a good idea to press enter.
What if something goes wrong?
If you do happen to find yourself in a situation where a birth family member has made contact with your child, it is important that you raise this with an adoption professional through making contact with your regional Adoption Support Team. They will be best placed to have the conversation with the birth family as to why this is inappropriate and the way that these approaches may make the child feel. They may then assist you and your child to develop arrangements that feel more comfortable and safe for your child if this is something your child wanted to pursue.
Of course, if anything does go wrong, or you’re finding managing your child’s social media presence difficult, we'd advise that you speak with your social worker for further guidance.