To help children and young people with care experience to stay safe while browsing online, we have provided insight and advice on what you can do as a parent or carer to support them.
Browsing and using the internet is an important activity for children and young people in care many of whom may feel socially isolated. It can help them with learning, enjoying downtime, developing hobbies, forming their identity, and finding their voice. The risk to their safety is significant given their care status, their family and social history, and their trauma experiences.
Keeping children safe online is an increasingly complex but vitally important task for all those involved with the child but can be simplified to three core concepts:
Browsing online brings a range of benefits which can support children and young people’s wellbeing and education, including:
Any child or young person from any background can be at risk of online harm, but some are more susceptible to it than others. Children and young people with care-experience may be more at risk or exhibit the following behaviours:
Differing social experiences and risk-taking perspectives
Excessive screen time
Fake news and misinformation
Privacy and data concerns
It is important to be aware that:
Children and young people in your care may experience all forms of online risk – content, contact, and conduct when browsing. If their previous internet history and experiences have been unmanaged or unregulated, they may have already been exposed to these risks and may be unaware that they are at risk of harm
The areas of risk explained
Managing access to apps and platforms
Parents and carers should try to provide safe internet access and browsing capability for young people with care-experience. Whilst access may be considered a right, children and young people also have the right to be protected ruling out unmediated. Managing your child or young person’s expectation from the outset, together with the rest of the team around the child, is essential.
Equipping yourself to safeguard those in your care requires a mix of your skills (including your communication and relationship skills) and willingness to get familiar with settings and controls across platforms and devices. Keeping up to date with the ever-changing range of online services and digital devices through sites like Internet Matters is an important element of safeguarding all children and young people, especially those with care experience.
The presence of risk does not imply actual harm, but teamwork (bringing on board everyone involved in supporting the child or young person) and a positive, proactive approach to the online activity will create a good digital atmosphere around the child and young person. This, in turn, may reduce the likelihood of them experiencing online harms and enable the support network to assist the child or young person should
they experience online harm.
Conversations to have
Developing an open honest non-judgemental relationship where children and young people with care-experience feel safe in discussing their issues is vital to reduce the risk of harm.
See related advice and practical tips to support children online: