Foster parents can be real heroes to a child undergoing a rough time. All parents have to deal with challenges, but foster parents have extra challenges that others don’t.
Foster children can have a wide variety of emotional needs and issues, which can make them especially vulnerable to online predators. Additionally, birth parents and relatives can use social media to make contact with their child, even if contact isn’t supposed to occur.
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New social media sites pop up all the time, and keeping track of your child’s online activity can be challenging. But help is available!
Here are three ways to protect your foster child from online threats.
1. Online pseudonyms
Unfortunately, birth parents or other relatives will often defy the courts and attempt to contact a foster child. The easiest way to search for someone online is to search for his or her name, so an easy and effective way to maintain anonymity online is to use pseudonyms.
A child has no particular need for his or her real name to be attached to social media sites, so simply create a fake name for your foster child to use online. The best type of pseudonym is something simple and generic; a variation of the child’s existing name is probably not a good idea.
2. No photos
Not too long ago, a pseudonym would’ve been enough online protection. Today, however, a wealth of information about someone can be obtained simply from a photo.
With Google Image Search, and similar photo-based search engines, it can be possible to find people online even if they’re not using their real name. It’s also not terribly complicated to determine their location from a photo.
This can be an issue with birth parents and relatives who attempt to find the foster child. Make sure your foster child knows not to post pictures of him- or herself online, in addition to removing any “tagged” photos.
3. No hidden passwords
Children don’t usually understand how sneaky an online predator can be. What may seem like a harmless online interaction to the child can actually be something a foster parent should know about.
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While your foster child should have privacy and space, you should also know every password to every social media site he or she visits. And you should regularly “check in,” to see who your foster child is in contact with online.
Foster children can often feel like they don’t fit in anywhere, and this can make them especially vulnerable to improper attention from strangers online. On top of that, birth parents or relatives also use social media to instigate unwanted (or even illegal) contact with the child.
Great foster parents are a must for children in need, and becoming a foster parent can be a wonderful experience for both the adult and child. These tips should help both you and your foster child feel safe and secure.