Creating a safer online environment for the children in your care should start pre-placement.
Before a child is placed into your care, get familiar with the world of social media and gaming. This will increase your confidence and equip you with the knowledge to deal with potential issues.
Any child placed with you will be looking to you for guidance. As a family, practice what you preach and set a good example.
Think about your whole family’s online activities. If you, your partner or your birth children use social media, ensure privacy settings are set to private, check that content you share is appropriate and that you are only ‘friends’ with people you know and trust face to face.
Prepare your home by placing any internet connected technology (remember this includes laptops and tablets, but also games consoles) in a family space and set parental controls for all of these devices
Where possible, ask your child’s social worker if any of their case history involves behavioural issues or incidents of abuse online.
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 devices they own and which ones link to the internet.
Show an interest in these technologies (games consoles, laptops, mobile phone) and child's online lives. Write down the sites they use and visit them before the child is placed into your care. Google or Youtube the name of the site or app -there are often short tutorials filmed by young people themselves which can be very helpful!
Where possible, set up an account on sites and learn the safety settings. This way you can share an interest, act knowledgeably and know how to protect them if something goes wrong.
If you would not class yourself as 'internet savvy’, ask a friend or family member or get your local library to help you. There are also government courses which can get you up to speed. Ask your local council for more information.
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.
Consider including this as an 'Online Technologies Plan' as part of the placement plan agreed at the beginning of a child’s placement.
The plan should specifically address things like whether the carer should be online 'friends' with the child or not. The child's social worker should inform you of any particular issues which need to be considered.