Wednesday, January 28, 2015


When you're bringing up children you need carrots and sticks to encourage good behaviour.

In the past parents used actual sticks. Violence. Some still do. Shouting, threatening, berating, it all happens.

A man has just been convicted in Italy, a wealthy man, for forcing his daughters to go ski-ing and eat a macrobiotic diet because he thought they were overweight. 

Until recently the best fallback for most parents was grounding.

The latest research, out this week, says that computer time is the new grounding. Instead of telling children they can't go out, modern parents are switching off the internet or confiscating the tablet.

We foster parents were way ahead of the pack on this one.

Because of the potential for misadventure on the internet, foster carers are duty bound to monitor internet activity, and this has been the case as long as I can remember.

There was once a rule in fostering that laptops weren't allowed upstairs; it was a law unto fostering. 

But lately we carers have to keep social workers up to speed on how it is out there with the changing technology. It's not that we are more hip than them, we find out from our foster children what the latest thing is, and the children find out because the information is swapped among themselves.

On the internet.

Back in the medieval period of social media (2005-2008) there were no tablets, and mobile phones just supported conversations and text. Texts cost money. In those days the internet and mobiles gave us headaches as foster parents, but things were much simpler.

Remember when the only PC in the house was a giant desktop tower?  It stayed rooted to the same spot and people took turns. Monitoring activity was a cinch.

Now a child with a mobile phone can do anything a computer can do. Anywhere they want.

I would guess that the number one universal challenge facing almost every foster carer in Britain today is how to approach the whole business of internet/cellnet communication. It's right up there with Contact and the school.

Our problems are greater than ordinary parents. For a start we may not own the technology; the phones are often given to the child by their real parents, and they often pick up the tab for the top ups too. So what rights do we have to make them switch it off? The thing isn't even connected to our router.

The survey rightly says that modern kids regard connection to the net as a right.

The dangers that foster children may be talking to people they shouldn't talk to are greater than for ordinary children. All children might be got at by people who may be grooming them. Foster children might also be got at by members of their own family telling them unhelpful things, making contact outside agreed contact times, unsupervised.

The technology is only going to get better, the hardware will get slicker, the software will get more clever, social media will become more important in people's lives.

Parents need some means of blocking cellnet activity, a device they can throw the switch. Until then it's down to our savvy and determination to care.

Foster carers have to be very alive to all the issues the technology can raise in their home, and we've been clued up for years on using the following to mediate behaviour "Any more of that and the net is going off and it won't be back on until I say"

As with any threat, it only works if you've acted on it once; actually pulled the plug.

Wait, who am I telling? You knew that, be honest. 

I suppose you could always threaten them with ski-ing and macrobiotic food.

Come to think of it, that threat would sharpen my behaviour never mind about kids.


  1. Hi, I am interested what solutions for Internet security foster carers use?
    Obvious choice at home is router with advanced parental controls (like Cyberoam NetGenie). What about smartphones?
    I am IT professional: at my work I using MDM (Mobile device management) solutions, but they mostly are available to enterprise and may be costly.
    All this solutions may be intrusive of privacy. Do foster carers have right to monitor ("spy") on children?
    I understand it need to be don for children safety, no doubt about it, but how to do it with respect to theirs privacy?

  2. Hi Sobek, and thanks for your comments. Blue Sky (our fostering agency) have their own IT experts who advise us on these issues. Sometimes they come out to our house to do a specific fix, sometimes they deliver a training session to a roomful of (slighty) bewildered foster carers. IT keeps moving at such a pace. No sooner do we get our heads around the latest thing than it's superceded by something new.
    In fostering I believe our best chance of keeping foster children safe while rescpecting their privavcy is down to our understanding of something a ot more complictaed than a computer; the child's brain. Each child is different. By making the effort to know them individually we can anticipate where there may be problems and act accordingly. I hope that answers your questions.

  3. Thank you very much for answer.
    I am in the process of becoming foster carer ("Skills to Foster" - next weekend)
    I wonder sometimes about some "issues". I found your blog very helpful. I think you are Star. Best Regards. Sobek

  4. Every foster carer is a star Sobek, but thanks for the compliment.
    There's plenty to think about in fostering, if you want to raise any issues don't hesitate to contact the blog.
    Best wishes SFC