I have been trying to write this post for a little while and have had a lot of time to reflect and think about the best way to tackle it.
As you know, I love Instagram and I love sharing my journey and story with you, people I know and those I don;t know. I have built up a lovely following on Instagram and Facebook and I have online friends who I turn to when I need support. However, and please don’t take this the wrong way, we are all strangers. Some of you I wouldn’t recognise if I literally bumped into you in the street, because your profiles are totally anonymous (you’re already doing this right!).
It is your choice what you post online, how much of your journey you share. However, my background as a computing and online safety co-ordinator whilst I was teaching, and now in my current role at the adoption agency I am also advising and supporting them on their online and social media policy, I feel I have a duty to pass on some tips and maybe give you and your friends and family something to think about.
I will try and keep it short so here is the 101 on social media and online safety whilst adopting If you want an open account (and useful for a closed account too!)
- Keep your account locked down if possible, but if you do have an open account follow the below...
- Keep your username anonymous (this will help protect identity theft but also people tracing you or your child because your using your name in your profile. I know someone this has happened to and a birth parent found their child on Instagram. This isn’t to scare you, just reality)
- Posting pictures of your child’s face. You know whether seeing their faces online is a threat to their safety based on their background. Also be careful depending at what stage of the process you are in. If they are legally yours then you have to weigh up the dangers. If they are not legally yours then the LA will most likely say they are NOT allowed their faces on the internet. (& covering their eyes isn’t enough to disguise them). Also if someone at their school see’s your account and you are discussing adoption and have photos of their faces, does your child want the world to know they are adopted? That is for you and your child to discuss.
- Posting photos: this is one for all parents regardless of how your child came to be with you. Just be mindful that these photos may stay around for years. Is your child going to thank you for it in the future? Are their friends going to be able to use that photo as ammunition? Would they get teased for it? Have you ASKED them if they are happy for that photo to be part of their online identity footprint? Children as young as 4 are being taught about keeping their identity safe online in school. Getting used to taking photos from angles which wont get thier faces in is almost a new game!
- Discussing your child’s story - this is NOT your information to be discussing with strangers, (and yes we are classes as strangers) This is your child’s story and past and they have a right to keep this private, not to have it put on the internet. I know we build a lovely community online however, you may not know all the people who are following you and are they who they say they are?
I saw a comment this week on Instagram where someone said ‘why shouldn’t you post what you like, its a safe space to talk about your journey’. IT IS NOT A SAFE SPACE if you have an open account. Anyone can follow you or read your account without even ‘following’ you. IF your account is closed, do you REALLY know all these people?
- Language: be mindful how you are speaking about your child and their birth family. We all have our own opinions and often mixed about their past, your child’s birth family are a part of them. They may read these messages in the future, how would they feel to see you slagging them off to the world.
Recently on Facebook in a closed adoption group (many of you may know the one I mean) an anti-adoption group had been added as they had passed all the information checks, they had taken screen shots of the lovely first day at school photos that adopters were posting, believing they were posting in safety.
But again do you KNOW everyone on that group? There is so much information you can get from that photo. The school, age of child, often people had named their child in the post. Just think carefully before posting.
- Sharenting: Posting about your day with your child but over sharing. Be mindful of the things you are posting, Are they going to thank you for that post?
Will it embarrass them at a later date? Would their potential boss in the future find it funny? The internet is easily copied by screen shots and work places do search the applicants history. We have a digital footprint and we have to be mindful what we are sharing about our children.
- Names: I use a nickname for my son, I wont post about his birthday on his birthday (because then you’ll know his DOB), I wont post a photo of him in his school uniform (even though I really want to because he looks so bloody gorgeous). As I say to Cub, I am your mummy and my job is to keep you safe. That means online too.
I go by the rule that if I truly believe the post I am putting wont offend, embarrass or harm my child in anyway, now or in the future then that is safe. If he wants to be found online in the future we will discuss that. But I wont be the one who allows him to be found because I haven’t thought before I posted.
I hope this is some help, and isn’t teaching you to suck eggs? Most of the adoption community are very mindful about our child’s identity. However, sometimes we all need a little reminder. This is something for prospective adopters who may not have thought about the online world yet and also useful for friends and family. However this doesn’t have to just be to safeguard looked after children. Birth children need to be kept safe too.
Here are a few websites that I think are brilliant at helping parents with digital safety.
First up Vodafone have a digital parenting magazine which is written in collaboration with Parent Zone. It is well worth a read. Their website has loads of genuinely useful tips and tricks for navigating parenting in a digital age. Its also holistic, nit just on the dangers of the internet, but talking about boundaries and life with digital devices:
Then we have Child Net, which is user friendly, fun and a very good website for information and videos about online safety:
Next up is Think U Know, which I have used when I was teaching as a resource. There are child appropriate videos to watch with your children (always watch them first to check the age and stage for your child) anyway a great website:
Another good website for information is NSPCC, they have also linked up with Netaware and have a good resource where you can type in an Apps name and it will tell you all about it and show you a handy barometer with headings such as 'bullying', 'violence and hatred' so you can see what the dangers on that platform could be at a glance:
And Finally: Parent Zone, this web-face isn't as user friendly as the Vodafone, child net or Thinkuknow, which I find easy to read and fun. However there are some useful articles on there which you may find interesting.
I hope these all help and give you something to support you to be digitally responsible parents.
We can have an amazing time online and share our wonderful journeys, find support and grow great friendships, just think before you post.
Until next time, Zoe x