Technology and Internet Safety Advice
As technology evolves, it provides increased and diverse ways for people to maintain contact and share information. Whilst this may be beneficial for many, it creates significant challenges for keeping children safe. Although our primary focus is on keeping children safe, it is worth noting that technology also raises challenges for adults in not only keeping themselves safe but also understanding the technology which children are now using and the risks which children may unknowingly be exposing themselves to.
Technology also enables children and their families to communicate in ways which they were never able to before, for example more children than ever have their own mobile phones, email accounts and accounts on online networking sites such as, Facebook and Twitter. These technology advances which children nowadays have at their fingertips sometimes raises difficulties in the management of contact between foster children and their birth families.
A child’s care plan clarifies the structure which contact between children and their families should be. Sometimes this can be fluid and flexible and in some cases it can be clearly stipulated. Children and young people tend to carry their mobiles around with them and if they exchange numbers with birth relatives or communicate with them via email or online networking sites it can be almost impossible for carers to regulate the amount of contact, or to gate-keep what is being discussed. The challenges though extend beyond the contact which children may have with birth families to the potential of having contact with individuals who they do not know. Unfortunately there have been occasions whereby children as well as adults have been misled on the internet into believing they are talking to someone who is of a particular identity but it has later transpired that the person with whom they thought to have been communicating with was hiding behind a false identity by using a fake name and photos and sharing other details which have been uploaded or shared in dialogue.
There are no easy answers to the problem of how to manage the effects of technology, so it is important to encourage carers and parents to be aware of the issues which may arise and to think creatively about how to respond to them. Most importantly, we need to look out for changes in the child’s mood or behaviour and to be aware that communication through technology whether mobile phone apps or online may be raising issues which the child needs help to deal with.