Parenting in the Digital Age – Blog

A BBC news story this week on the difficulties caused by an unmanaged online contact between two adopted teenage brothers and their birth family has again highlighted the challenges of parenting in the digital age.

Although the story was unusual, in the degree to which it impacted on the adoptive parents and their children, direct contact between adopted children and birth parents/family before the expected age of 18-years-old is a growing issue; due in part to the increased use of social media and online platforms, especially by young people. Adoption UK’s recent survey, its ‘Adoption Barometer’, revealed almost a quarter (24%) of adopted children aged 13 to 18-years-old had experienced direct contact with birth family, outside of a managed agreement, often via social media. 

As part of its commitment to lifelong support for its adoptive parents and as part of its post-adoptive training, Faith in Families (FiF) has for some time run a Parenting in the Digital Age course for adoptive parents. Further information is available by emailing  enquiries@faithinfamilies.org or calling 0115 9558811.

However, we thought it would be helpful to highlight some top tips from that course, in this blog:

  • Don’t forget the non-digital element – From when they first come to live with you, it is important that your adopted child/ren feel they can talk to you about their birth family experiences; both good and bad. Adopted children who know that you know their history and are willing to speak openly about it, will not feel they have to keep secret an ‘out of the blue’ digital approach from birth family.
  • Hope for the best, prepare for the worst – Getting involved early on with your child’s growing digital footprint and monitoring how they use online platforms – examples would include helping them set appropriate social media account privacy settings when younger, encouraging the use of shared family passwords or keeping a close eye on how much time they spend online -is important but parents may also be wise to raise the possibility of unanticipated online contact from birth families, BEFORE it happens. By saying to their child ‘this is a possibility and, if it happens, come to us’ will reduce the stress of the situation for the adopted child.
  • Keep up-to-date – Technology moves on at an incredible pace and, generally speaking, children will know more about the latest apps and platforms then their parents. A 2019 OfCom report found half of ten-year-olds now owned their own smartphone and a high proportion of young to mid-teens have or have used social media accounts, despite those companies’ stated age restrictions.
  • Make use of training offered – Whether you adopted through a local authority or agency, check regularly on ‘Parenting in the Digital Age’ type training courses on offer. Contact arrangements with birth families, usually via ‘letterbox’ arrangement, have been a feature of adoption for years but the ways in which this is done will have to change, as society and its technology changes.

We hope this blog has been of some use.