Social Media

Helping Youth Use Social Media Safely in Fostering

Recently, NSPCC called for the government to make social media websites sign up to a mandatory code of practice and give an independent regulator the power to fine those that break the rules which raises questions about the safer caring concerns of social media in young people.

The charity said the government had failed to properly implement about half of the child safety online recommendations made in a report commissioned by ministers a decade ago, despite pledges to make the UK the safest place in the world for children to go online. In a statement released, the charity said “It’s impossible to fathom how much harm has been done over those years in terms of online sexual abuse, hate speech, violent and harmful content and cyberbullying.”

In 2008 the then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, asked the child psychologist Prof Tanya Byron to investigate the impact the internet and video games were having on children. Her report made 38 recommendations for making the online world safe for children, including a call for voluntary regulation of websites. Considering most of the teenagers in fostering regularly use computer games, the focus for foster carers to be aware of the dangers of social media and remain vigilant- how do I keep my foster children safe online?

The foster carer needs to balance screen time with quality one to one time with the children and young people and equip them with life skills for their independence. It is also important to remember the recent WHO decision to include a gaming disorder as a diseases per the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). ICD is the basis for identification of health trends and statistics globally and the international standard for reporting diseases and health conditions. It is used by medical practitioners around the world to diagnose conditions and by researchers to categorize conditions.

The inclusion of a disorder in ICD is a consideration which countries take into account when planning public health strategies and monitoring trends of disorders. A decade after Prof. Byron’s report, the government’s internet safety strategy is still in the process of developing a code of practice for social networks and only 13 of Byron’s 38 recommendations have been fully implemented.

Meanwhile, the online world has moved on significantly: Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp did not exist a decade ago; 83% of 12- to 15-year-olds have a smartphone, and half of all children have a social media profile by age 12, according to Ofcom.

Considering most of the children above the age of 12 in fostering have mobile phones which are deemed as their own property the safer caring responsibility falls on foster carers. When we are thinking about the safe spaces for youth in this International Youth Day, we also need to remember how safety is at risk if access to social media is not managed appropriately. Foster carers can learn more about social media safety from a factsheet published by the government in July 2017: Social Media: Tips for Foster Parents and Caregivers which can also be accessed following this link: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/smtips_parent.pdf

Please follow the link below for accessing more information about Prof. Byron’s report: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/services-and-resources/research-and-resources/2018/byron-review-10-years-on/

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