Digital technologies are part of everyday life. For children and young people, being online is an important part of developing hobbies, playing and interacting with others, and learning new skills. But we also know that children and young people with care experience can be more at risk when taking part in online activities. Foster carers play an important role in supporting children in their care to be aware of the dangers of the digital world while also taking advantage of everything it has to offer.
Fostering in a digital world: challenges and opportunities
Digital technologies are an important part of children and young people’s lives, and they are here to stay. Being online (browsing and using the internet) gives children and young people the chance to stay connected with their friends, learn new things, and even support their learning at school.
But children will encounter risks online. It is important to support them to recognise and manage these risks. This will help them to develop 'digital resilience' and, in turn, help them to make safer choices online.
Developing digital resilience will also prepare children and young people for an adult world where they will need to access the internet to apply for jobs, manage their money, and keep in touch with family and friends.
As technology develops, children are going online at a younger age and spending increasing amounts of time using apps and viewing content. Having regular conversations with children and young people about their digital activity (what they are seeing and doing online) is one of the key ways to help keep them safe online.
There are other practical things you can do to help manage what children see and do online:
- Make use of parental controls.
- Explore new apps or websites together.
- Encourage the children and young people in your care to talk to you about their online activity, good or bad, as a way of building trust and starting the conversation about digital risk.
How we can help foster carers
Fostering Digital Skills
We have worked with online safety experts Internet Matters to develop Fostering Digital Skills, a free online course that can be accessed as a trainer-led experience, or as four self-directed online learning modules that you can complete in your own time.
After completing this free-to-access course, foster carers should have a better understanding of online risks, and the confidence to support children and young people to use the internet safely.
Expert advice for parents and carers
Internet Matters have developed an Inclusive Digital Safety hub with tailored advice for supporting children and young people with care experience. From setting up parental controls to specific information on risks and issues, these resources are a great place to start.
If you want to start a conversation about digital safety but don't know where to begin, the Digital Passport is a communication tool designed to get foster carers and children talking about the issues that matter most to them.
Fostering in a Digital World: A Common Sense Guide
facts versus myths: putting the issues into perspective
- helping children and young people stay safe – the general principles
- what children and young people really do online
what to do if things go wrong: reporting online abuse and inappropriate material.
You can purchase our Fostering in a Digital World publication online.
Chapter 10 of our publication Safer Caring: a new approach also provides helpful tips about safer caring in a digital world.
Both publications are available to our members at a discounted price.
The Fostering Network provides in-house training courses on fostering in a digital word, tailored to meet your service’s needs. Contact our training team for more information.
Our helplines provide confidential and impartial advice for foster carers across the UK.
Our online community
Our members also have exclusive access to our online community where you can log in to share your experience and get advice from other foster carers. The community is a safe and secure area to discuss topics including being a foster carer and looking after a child, as well as advice on finances.