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Keeping Your Teen Safe Online

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When was the last time you thought about your foster child’s internet use? If it’s something you haven’t really considered before now, then you definitely aren’t alone.

The internet has become so far ingrained into our everyday lives, that we don’t often think about the potential problems it can cause. One of the biggest benefits the internet has provided, is the ability to stay in touch with friends and family. It’s changed the way in which we communicate and children often have their own social networking accounts to keep in touch with their friends.

However, without proper supervision, these sites can cause serious safety concerns. From cyber bullying to online predators – it’s vital you take appropriate measures to protect your child online.

Monitoring social media

If your foster child does have their own social media account, it’s worth monitoring their activity. Obviously if you’re dealing with a teenager this can be tricky! To adolescents, privacy is everything. If you try to monitor everything they do, it’s could be harmful to your relationship.

The problem is, teenagers are the most likely to end up getting into trouble online. Not only are they at risk of abuse and cyber-bullying but they are easily exposed to strangers and individuals you may approve of them socialising with in the “real world”.

So how can you stop this from happening? You need to handle it on an individual basis. Some teenagers are more responsible than others so they may not need as much monitoring. If you feel your foster teen does however, you can try the following:

  • Install an alert app – There are applications out there which can alert you if your child accesses images deemed inappropriate, or uses certain language they shouldn’t be using. They won’t actually show you what your child is looking at, but they will let you know there might be a problem.
  • Keep the main computer in a busy area – Avoid allowing the child to have a computer in their own room. This not only makes it easier to monitor what they are doing, but it will also make it harder for them to abuse any screen-time rules you may have in place.
  • Regularly communicate – No amount of parental controls or monitoring tools can substitute open communication. It’s important to regularly chat with your foster teen about the dangers of the internet. Use recent news stories as an example and make sure they understand basic internet safety. Most importantly, ensure they know they can approach and talk to you if they are concerned about something online.

If the computer is in a busy area, your teen is less likely to do something they shouldn’t. Of course, your teen could still get around this by using a mobile or tablet device in their room. However, you could impose restrictions on that too, getting them to hand their phone over at bedtime or keeping their tablet it in a locked drawer for example.

We know it can be difficult monitoring teenagers online these days. The above advice can help, but ultimately there is only so much you can do as a carer. Having a good line of open communication and ensuring your foster teen trusts you is a good start.

Do you have any tips for our carers on how to keep their teens safe online? We’d love to hear from you over on our Facebook page.

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