Handling Social Media

What issues do you need to think about when using social media as an adoptive or foster parent? What issues do you need to consider for your teens and tweens as they engage in social media? We talk with Katie Biron, Director Fostering Connections for Families and Program Manager of the Family Connections Program; Laura Jean Beauvais, licensed professional counselor with New Wind Counseling; and Dawn Friedman, a licensed professional clinical counselor with supervisory designation at Building Family Counseling about handling social media with adopted, foster, and kinship children.

In this episode, we cover:

Some of the most popular social media platforms include:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • YouTube
  • TikTok
  • Snapchat
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit

Social Media Pre-adoption

  • Keep in mind that states have varying laws on matching online and advertising for an expectant parent. You need to know what is allowed.
  • How much information can you or should you post after you have been matched with an expectant mom during her pregnancy?
  • How much info can you share post birth and after the baby comes home, but before the adoption is finalized?
  • Is it OK to “snoop” on expectant family and birth family online pre-adoption? You should know that the expectant family will also be checking you out online.
  • Should you friend the expectant mom and family pre-adoption?
  • How, when, and if to announce a child coming into your family through adoption.

Social Media as an Adoptive Parent

How much of your child’s adoption story should you share online?

  • How much should you share of your child’s birth parent’s online presence with a school aged child or younger?
  • Sharing photos online. How to handle differing opinions between adoptive and bio family on sharing pics. Common scenario is adoptive parent doesn’t share online pics and bio family does.
  • Friending biological or first family or accepting friend requests from biological family.
  • How to seek help online without divulging your child’s personal information or oversharing.
    • Post anonymously either on your own or ask group admin.
    • Ask general questions without personal details.
  • How to juggle the ups and downs of adoption groups on social media.

Social Media as a Foster Parent

  • Differing rules and expectations on social media use between foster child and foster parent will be discussed later in the interview.
  • Can a foster parent post a foster child’s picture online?
    • Ask you caseworker
    • Confidentiality is essential
    • Use the Reasonable Prudent Parent Standard
  • Discussion in online forums. How open can you be?

Social Media with Adopted/Fostered Teens

  • What age do adolescents start having access to social media without adult supervision?
  • Handling social media with the teens in foster care?
  • Benefits of social media for adopted and fostered adolescents.
    • Maintaining social ties. Social media is how many youth connect with friends, both old and new. May be especially important for young people who have been moved from their communities and families.
    • Support. Through either organized online groups for youth in similar situations or informally.
    • Family connections. Youth may be able to with biological family members between family visits, where appropriate and approved by the caseworker.
    • Self-expression. Social media is where many budding poets, artists, videographers hone their skills. It is also a place where young people shape their identity and can contribute to healing from childhood trauma.
  • Risks: While all youth may be at some risk for unsafe online situations, youth in foster care may be particularly vulnerable.
    • Cyberbullying
    • Child predators
    • Contact with adults or family members who are unsafe.
  • General internet safety rules
    • General rule is control for younger children gradually shifting into teaching them to how to protect themselves.
    • Start with a conversation.
    • Tips to share:
      • Think before you post. Adults will be able to see it. It will last a lifetime even if you delete.
      • Don’t friend people you don’t know.
      • Never share address or personal info online.
  • First, if working with a youth in foster care, check with the caseworker about any specific rules or limitations, unsafe persons, or past problems with social media.
  • How to handle birth family contacting youth or youth contacting birth family once the child has their own social profiles.
    • Differs depending on if you have an open adoption, closed adoption, or child is in foster care?
    • Concerns:
      • Child’s location will be known or could be known.
      • Child sees inappropriate adult behavior.
      • Child learns of birth parents past history, lifestyle, or present circumstances.
      • Birth family and friends of the birth family gaining access into your life through your child.
  • When a child joins your family at an older age, either through adoption or fostering, and they have had much looser restrictions (or no oversight at all). How do you introduce rules and get them to obey?
  • Differing opinions from foster parents and bio parents on what is appropriate and not appropriate when handling social media.

Resources:

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Music Credit: Michael Ashworth

Image Credit: Katerina Holmes