Internet, Photographs and Mobile Phones

Standards & Regulations

Fostering Services National Minimum Standards (England) 2011:

Training, Support and Development Standards for Foster Care:

See also:


  1. Introduction
  2. Internet
  3. Photographs
  4. Mobile Phones

1. Introduction

Different ways of communicating with friends are important to a child/young people and are now a way of life from an early age. When a child is placed with you, find out their background and whether the internet, photographs and mobile phones contributed towards any abuse so that you can plan their use safely for all children but particularly those where it has been an issue. You should ask the child’s social worker for advice and information.

Your knowledge of different media will vary but it is important that foster carers develop their understanding of different electronic devices, the internet and social media, and that you learn how to safeguard children when using the internet and mobile devices. Foster carers should also be aware of and alert to the signs of grooming behaviour. Grooming is when someone builds an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse or exploitation.

If you are concerned that a child/young person is being bullied over the internet or phone, you should talk to them about it, record what is happening in the daily diary sheets and speak to the child’s social worker as soon as possible.

2. Internet

You should try and take part in a child’s web browsing particularly for a new child in placement; school homework is an ideal opportunity for this. Explain the web's positive and negative sides and tell them that if they are not sure about a site they should talk to you.

Some useful guidelines are;

  • Time limits on computers should be agreed with the child/young person;
  • Appropriate internet security should be used on the computers to avoid access to inappropriate material;
  • You should set clear ground rules on the use of the internet;
  • Computers should be in areas of the house where adults can see what is being looked at rather than in a bedroom;
  • If a young person has a laptop then decide with them where and when they can use it if they are accessing the internet;
  • You should show an interest in the internet and encourage young people to be open about any concerns or problems;
  • Never allow a child to arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they "meet" on the internet without first speaking to the child’s social worker;
  • The child should never respond to messages that are rude, threatening, or makes them feel uncomfortable. Encourage the child to talk to you about messages like this. If the child receives a message or sees something on-line that you are concerned about keep a copy and make a note in the daily record;
  • Remember that people online may not be who they say they are.

Teaching the child to be cautious is important and can help when they start to use social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter.

When they do you should ensure the child's profile and postings contain nothing that might expose their identity or whereabouts.

The use of Facebook is increasingly an issue where parents contact looked after children via Facebook rather than through the agreed contact arrangements. These issues will need discussing at the Placement Plan meeting and also at the regular annual reviews.

When they do access Facebook, or other social networking sites, you should ensure the child's profile and postings contain nothing that might expose their identity or whereabouts.

You should try to equip the child with the skills to decide who to trust, even when they have not met the person face-to-face and talk to the child/young person about what makes a real friend.

Again, you should be aware of and alert to indicators of grooming behaviour and possible sexual exploitation.

3. Photographs

If it is OK to take pictures or videos, but always ask the child’s permission first and make sure they are clear on who will see them and why.

You should try and take photographs regularly of the child/young person to help record their life; it may also help when putting together their Life Story book. See Keeping Memories.

You should be clear on who can give consent for the child to have their picture taken or be filmed for school etc.

4. Mobile Phones

Mobile phones now offer, text messaging, taking pictures, sending and receiving them, sending and receiving video clips and sound tracks, as well as access to the internet which means a child can download pictures and videos.

With a camera phone a child/young person can also send pictures of themselves, friends and where they live, which can have security implications for some Looked After Children.

Where a child or young person has a mobile phone the most important consideration is for the safety of the child. Contracts are often the best place to provide a clear set of rules for young people, carers and professionals, and parents where possible and/or appropriate.

The following is a set of guidance for what should be considered or when a child or young person has a mobile phone:

  • Age appropriate use of the phones – Can the child take their phone to school? Do they need to hand in their phone at the end of the evening before they go to bed?
  • Safety – does the phone have internet access and if so has the carer, social worker and child all signed the contract to agree that the carer will periodically check the phone for appropriate and safe usage? And if the agreement has been made that the phone will not be checked document why;
  • Where there are concerns about the use of the phone, you should report them to the child’s social worker and discuss appropriate sanctions – should the phone be removed?
  • Where it is considered and evidence is available to suggest that the child’s mobile phone is placing the child at risk the phone can be removed as an immediate measure. If this situation occurs reporting to the supervising social worker or support worker and discussions about who should inform the child’s social worker should be done at the earliest opportunity and action to remedy this situation taken. This should be recorded within the contract;
  • Contact with birth families can often be the source of distress and upset. If the use of a mobile phone affects contact negatively with family this should be reported and consideration given to what measures can be taken by the child’s social worker to address this;
  • How is the credit for the phone managed? It is the responsibly of the young person to maintain credit for their personal phone with your support. Consideration should be given to pocket money, activities and any part time working undertaken by the young person. Appropriate support to encourage ordinary ‘teenage behaviour’ in relation to current mobile phone communication should be considered carefully. It is imperative that looked after children are not discriminated against simply because they are in the care system and they should still be given the same opportunities as their peer groups whilst being mindful of the safeguarding issues.

Again, this needs detailed discussion with the child’s social worker and with your supervising social worker as the child may be having contact by mobile with family members who seek to undermine the placement or are not part of the contact plan.

Mobile phone network providers operate a barring and filtering mechanism to prevent those under 18 years accessing 18 rated content. The service can be provided for both contract and pay as you go phones. You are advised to explore this with the network provider that a child/young person uses or see what other services they offer.