Foster Parenting in the Digital Age
Trying to protect a child in your home, whether they be biological, adopted or fostered, can be a daunting task as entertainment devices, social media, and the internet permeate our society. The risk for access by predators or the viewing of inappropriate content is not affected by who cares for a child. While biological parents have more control over the activities their children are involved in, those involved in foster parenting may have questions about their rights and responsibilities regarding the online presence of the children in their care.
Children need access to their communities.
Most importantly, children in foster care should be granted the same rights as children living with their own families. Those children should not be barred from interacting socially or participating in extracurricular activities. In order to maintain normalcy in the lives of foster children deserve to build what is referred to as social capital. Adolescents should especially be offered the chance to be involved with their communities, including members of their own generation, and social media is integral to that involvement. Not only that, but access to their unrestricted family members through social media can help the child feel connected to those that they may not be able to see or interact with in any other way.
Caregivers have some control.
In many states, reasonable restrictions may be imposed on a child in the care of a foster parent. Just as in the case of biological parents, caregivers are given the right to limit internet usage when appropriate or prohibit use the of electronic devices altogether. Parental controls are an effective way to limit access and difficult passwords help parents assure themselves that the children in their care are not accessing the web without permission. However, foster parents are not permitted to deny access to telephone calls, mail, and e-mail with a child’s relatives unless that contact is specifically prohibited by court order. However, foster children often maintain the right to telephone, mail, and email access in order to communicate with family members, social workers, attorneys or other advocates involved in their case.
While it may be true that foster parents have more regulation in the way they care for the children in their care, they do share some rights in the way those children behave and interact with their community while living in the caregiver’s home. Parents of all walks of life worry about the safety of the children they care for, but children deserve a life of normal interaction and social stimulation. Foster parents have a duty and obligation to provide both safety and normalcy. They also have a responsibility, just as any parent, to find a balance between those two aspects of parenting.