Social media is a powerful tool with the potential to make meaningful connections, share important news and support child wellbeing work. Agencies, caseworkers, caregivers and youth can all benefit from the social networks that help connect people and ideas. These benefits come with inherent risks, however, including online privacy concerns and the potential for predatory behavior, cyberbullying and inappropriate communication.
With all this in mind, Child Welfare Information Gateway created the following series of factsheets to help youth in foster care — and their caregivers and caseworkers — stay safe and smart while using social media:
Social Media: Tips for Youth in Foster Care acknowledges the supportive nature of social networks while highlighting their potential pitfalls and provides recommendations to help teens stay safe. This factsheet offers specific social media websites and networks that can help children in care connect with others who share their experience, as well as concrete actions they can take to practice appropriate and safe online etiquette and behavior.
Social Media: Tips for Foster Care Workers considers the many ways social media can advance child welfare work and help professionals support youth and families. It also offers suggestions for protecting online privacy and setting professional boundaries in a field that demands strict confidentiality. This factsheet includes information on advising youth and families on safe social media practices and the importance of obtaining agency and/or client consent prior to any social media activity.
Social Media: Tips for Foster Parents and Caregivers provides pointers for foster parents and caregivers to help children in care use social media safely. This includes tips for securing strict privacy settings, establishing “house rules” on acceptable social media use, discussing safe online behavior and the potential for cyberbullying, understanding online gaming risks, monitoring mobile device use and recognizing risky online behavior or exposure.