Keeping adopted children safe online

Keeping adopted children safe online

Early experiences can make adopted children more vulnerable online. Here are practical things you can do to help them stay safe

Parents text content

Many adopted children and young people have had difficult experiences in childhood. Loss, grief and disrupted family lives can make them more vulnerable to the range of risks that all children and young people face. 

Adopted children also face the possibility of contact from their birth family. This can pose additional risks.

Contact with birth families

Sometimes birth families bypass the traditional route of using an adoption agency to find their relatives and instead use online sites such as Facebook to trace and locate them.

Some adopted children also actively search for their birth relatives in secret; if they are successful, this can place them in risky situations.

For a child, finding their birth family using the traditional channels can be emotional and challenging. This would usually involve preparation and significant support, however, the speed of the internet means online contact can be instant and direct. It can also happen without anyone knowing.

This contact causes additional complexities; what may start well and feel like a ‘honeymoon’ period, can quickly spiral out of control. The child could find themselves facing demands from additional relatives looking to make contact. These individuals may have varying accounts of the events leading up to the adoption which could leave the child confused and upset.

Advice for adoptive parents

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Social media enables us to share a huge amount about ourselves. Children (and adults) share photos, stories and even their current location, through their mobile phones and other online technologies.

Any child sharing too much personal information could be putting themselves at risk, however in the case of an adopted child these risks are multiplied.

Personal information can be manipulated and used against them due to the nature of their personal circumstances. It could be that someone from their past is looking to locate them, find out where they live or go to school. To reduce this risk, ask your child not to share personal information online, such as;

● Real world locations like their home, school or current location

● Photos of them in recognisable places

Advise them not to ‘friend’ people they don’t trust in the real world

It’s not just your child who needs to think about their security, it’s the whole family. Content online can end up in unexpected places. A ‘like’ by a friend, can mean that their friends can see the photo you have posted, or even friends of friends. Make sure you follow the same rules as your child and ask those around you to do the same.

Parents text content

Tips for adoptive parents

As an adoptive parent, it is important that you:  

● Be a part of your child’s online life. Where possible, use the internet as a family. Discuss their favourite sites and the 'friends' they have online.

● For younger children be their ‘friend’ online. This will help to continue the conversation about what they're up to online.

● Talk to your child about what they would do if they did hear from a member of their birth family online.

● Talk through together what they would actually say. If the situation does arise having a plan in place means they will be more likely to come to you for support.  

● Recognise that your child may be curious about their past and the people in it. Let them know that you understand their curiosity and that it’s ok to talk about it with you. Emphasise that you won’t be upset or angry.

● Ask your child to set privacy settings on the sites they use online. This will ensure that they have more control over their personal information and who can gain access to it. 

● Practice what you preach! Do the same on the sites you use and be careful what information you and the rest of the family post about your adopted child.  

● Don’t be afraid to seek further support. Contact your child’s adoption agency if you have any queries about online contact from birth families and if you are concerned that your child may be in danger - call 999.