Children and young people with care experience enjoy connecting, gaming, learning, and having fun online – just like any other child. And yet, insight from care-experienced children suggests they inhabit a more hostile environment and are more likely to encounter greater risks online.
The same research tells us children and young people in care find the freedom and opportunities that connectivity brings particularly beneficial. Foster carers in turn told us they often knew very little about the online lives of the children in their care and weren’t always sure how to start a conversation about it. Every new placement brings a requirement to renegotiate digital access.
The Digital Passport addresses these needs. It’s a communication tool for foster carers and their children, created to facilitate frequent and supportive conversations, agree proactive steps they can both take to keep the child safer online and record any safeguarding or concerning incidents, as well as celebrate what they enjoy online.
The Digital Passport can be used as a way of discussing views, feelings, and experiences around the child’s digital life and recording agreements made, as well as checking whether they are still working for the child. Talking about the Passport’s prompts can also open the way to checking if agreements are still working and making timely adjustments, as well as give children in care a way of opening up a conversation about how they can be best supported.
The Digital Passport has two main sections. One brings together information for the foster carer and other professionals about the digital life of the child. The other is for the child to express their wishes, feelings and interests. The children’s Digital Passport section can be owned and held by the child and gives them the opportunity to say what they want and need.
We know that the most effective way of keeping children safe online is for their carers to be interested in and supportive of their online lives, and for conversations to be meaningful and regular.
We also know that many foster carers are tech-hesitant and may default to removing devices and restricting digital access when for many young people in care it is the only way, they have of connecting to friends and, where appropriate, family.
The Digital Passport serves as a resource to support foster carers in managing the crucial conversations that will help them understand, support, and safeguard their child’s online life.
The Digital Passport was created by the UKCIS Vulnerable Users Working Group– a collaboration of specialists volunteering their time to help reduce the likelihood of children with vulnerabilities experiencing harm online.
The Digital Passport was the idea of Adrienne Katz (Youthworks) and was created by her with expert input from Adam Gordon (LGfL), Dr. Simon P Hammond UAE, and Steve Bailey (Barnado’s), in addition to input from all other members of the UKCIS Vulnerable Users Working Group.
It’s a privilege to work with such a talented team of professionals and we hope these documents support care-experienced children to enjoy the benefits of connectivity safely.
See more articles and resources to help children stay safe online.