Welcome to FosterTalk’s monthly blog by Foster Career, Lisa Scott.
This month, Lisa shares her experiences and top tips on internet safety.
So, I class myself as a complete dinosaur when it comes to IT. I can’t always blame my age, just that I often act ignorant and am not willing to learn or I work on a need-to-know basis only. However, when you look after young people who are practically born with a smartphone in their palm, us oldies can come unstuck very quickly if we are not careful.
My first experience was a young man watching pornography via a youtube channel, to which I put my hands in the air and blamed ourselves for not securing our internet safely. This was soon corrected by attending an “Internet Safety Course” offered by our IFA which was extremely helpful and explaining to the young man that this behavior was inappropriate.
Another area of internet concern which we all deal with daily is the use of mobile phones. The child’s daily usage of the phone may be written into their risk assessment especially if there are concerns over CSE, this may make it easier to limit the usage and remove it at bedtime. We had a rule that all phones remained in the hall on charge at bedtime and that way it didn’t distract from sleeping.
A tip for mealtimes – we used to play ‘phone Jenga’ and with 8 of us at the table we could build a decent size tower! That way at least we could have conversations and catch up with them all on their day.
We once had a child who regularly absconded, however, because we had provided her with a smartphone we activated the tracker. This really helped in locating her when she went missing but she soon cottoned onto this and managed to deactivate it.
Gaming is another bugbear of mine, although I respect that it has positive elements and can develop cognitive abilities, resilience, and perseverance adding to this a general understanding of technology. Personally, I would still rather my children be outside having a tea party in a den they have built themselves.
If however, gaming is what they are used to as a form of entertainment, then as carers we have to adhere to certain rules to keep them safe – observing age restrictions and the theme of the game to make sure it’s appropriate. These games must be supervised, especially if they are playing something live with someone that you don’t know, who may even be twice their age and in a different country.
My final note is that of social media, which we often hate but can’t be without. My kids only allow me to be on Facebook as they don’t like me seeing what they are up to on Snapchat and Instagram, but my secret is to have moles planted everywhere to keep a little eye on them all…. Please don’t tell 😊
- Check websites are suitable BEFORE use
- Supervise children if you are concerned
- Learn together about how things on the internet may not always be as they seem
- Using child-friendly search engines and apps. Kidtopia, Kiddle, DuckDuckGo, KidRex, and FactMonster are examples of these
- Encourage children NOT to post any personal information online
- Keep privacy settings as high as possible. Visit Internet Matters for some great tips on how to do this.
- Explain to children that sometimes people they “meet” online are not who they claim to be
- Emphasis to children that if they see something online that makes them feel worried, unsafe, or uncomfortable they can close things down, turn off the computer if necessary and tell a trusted adult, as soon as possible
- Before children access online facilities, ask them to name 2 things they need to do that will help them keep safe online
- If you are at all concerned, have laptops/computers in the family living area, where you can monitor activity
- No mobiles/tablets at mealtimes
- No devices in bedrooms after a certain time
- CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre)
- Net Nanny
- Internet Watch Foundation
- UKCCIS (UK Council for Child Internet Safety)
- Youtube – films, such as Can I be your Friend? may be useful.
- Attend an Internet Safety course designed for Foster Carers. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details and course dates.
Lisa has worked at FosterTalk for over 4 years and is currently in our Memberships team.
There’s not much Lisa doesn’t know about fostering and running a very busy household.
She’s been married for 25 years, has been fostering for 9 years.
With 3 birth children, an 18-year-old and 22-year-old twins as well as 2 foster children on Staying Put agreements and 1 Supported Lodgings, we’d say she’s very experienced in living with young people, experiencing the daily issues they face and providing the support they need to progress through life.