Online Safety for Children and Young People in Care

For many foster carers, increased accessibility to social media platforms can create challenges and tension within a placement. Covid 19 restrictions and lockdowns have undoubtedly resulted in a greater reliance on the internet for social contact and recreation, especially for children and young people who have been unable to physically connect with their families and friends or participate in their usual social and sporting groups over the past 18 months.


Whilst risks exist in relation to online activities for all children and young people, those living in Out of Home Care can be far more vulnerable to exploitation, bullying, scams and other activities that result in serious personal and social consequences.


With these issues in mind, the Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies (ACWA) in NSW, is currently developing resources for carers and young people in care about online safety. As part of this work, ACWA funded the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare to undertake workshops across Victoria for care leavers, foster carers, kinship carers and children in care. The FCAV was pleased to co–facilitate two of these workshops with 65 foster carers in early August.


In the workshops, carers identified and discussed concerns regarding their own lack of knowledge of the social media landscape, the appropriateness of various websites and apps, strategies to manage children and young people’s access and screen time, and how to minimise potential risks in online activities.


Some of the key recommendations from the workshops included:


A Whole of Community Approach: Education of, and consistency between, parents, carers, and agency / child protection workers in relation to screen time, suitability of websites and apps, risk management.

Information about Technology: Identifying effective internet tools such as parental controls and trustworthy online advice; understanding risks and identifying red flags to help children and young people stay safe.

Information that helps carers manage children’s behaviour: to avoid melt-downs and aggression over carer efforts to regulate screen time and device use, how to regulate access and use without family arguments and escalation; trauma-informed online safety training (self-paced modules AND workshops with experts)

Strategies for setting screen time rules and boundaries: how to communicate to build trust and agreement

How to navigate Out of Home Care specific scenarios such as family contact, consistency between placement and respite care

Resources: Inclusion of resources in all carer training and ongoing support by agencies; shared learning resources that carers can use with children and young people together; inclusion of information and resources in carer handbooks.


There are a number of very helpful resources currently available online for carers via the eSafety Commissioner website.


Online safety for grandparents and carers | eSafety Commissioner


The eSafety Guide | eSafety Commissioner


The hard-to-have conversations | eSafety Commissioner


The FCAV will keep carers up to date on the progress of ACWA’s work on this very important issue.