Social media guidelines

Children and young people in care often enjoy being included in social media to celebrate their achievements and activities as a member of their foster or kinship carer’s family.

It is not unlawful for a photograph or information about a child in care to be posted on social media. However, it is unlawful to identify a child as being in care, or to include information that is likely to lead to the identification of a child as being in contact with the child protection system or on a child protection order.

Identifying information may include references to the child’s relationship to family, friends or acquaintances, or to ‘foster children’, ‘foster carers’, ‘kinship carers’ or court matters.

Identifying information explained

Posting a photograph of a child in care without any explicit reference to the child’s connection to you as the carer or to Child Safety is unlikely to identify the child being in care. However, there may be the possibility that posting a photograph, in addition to other information you may have posted previously, could lead to identifying the child being in care. In some cases, there is a safety risk if the location of a child in care can be identified by family members, friends or acquaintances.

If there is a safety risk, images of the child that could identify their location, such as in a school uniform, outside their house, or showing their first and last name, are not be published on the internet. This includes:

  • the full name and address of the child—be aware that some smart phones embed tags that can provide geographic information, revealing a child’s location
  • identification of the child’s school.

Your Child Safety Officer should have informed you about the child’s safety risk at the time the child was placed in your care. If you are unsure if there is a safety risk for the child in your care, contact your foster or kinship care agency or Child Safety Officer before you post any photographs that may identify a child’s name or location.

Your obligations

Child Safety requires that you :

  • not include foster children in your profile photos or other publicly accessible photos
  • have the strictest possible privacy settings on your own Facebook page to ensure that access is restricted to friends only and the information cannot be accessed by the public
  • consider who is in your friendship group when assessing whether it is appropriate to post a particular photo or information about a child in care
  • refrain from making references to foster or kinship care or Child Safety (regarding the child’s situation, or in general).

A breach of confidentiality under the Child Protection Act 1999 is an offence and carries penalties including a fine or imprisonment up to 2 years.

Child’s right to privacy

Children have a right to privacy, including physical, media and information privacy. Under the Child Protection Act 1999, the Charter of Rights for a child in care establishes a child’s right to privacy, including information privacy. This includes limiting the information that is known about a child, how it is shared and how it is used.

If the child in your care is old enough to understand what privacy means, it is important that you talk first with them about any intention to publish or post photographs of them online. While there is no age from which a child is legally able to make a decision about their privacy, foster and kinship carers should know whether the child in their care is old enough to understand their privacy rights.

Even if the photographs do not breach a carer’s confidentiality obligations, posting them online without talking with the child first may conflict with the child’s dignity and rights, including the right to privacy. This is particularly important if posting the information goes against the child’s wishes. Make sure you speak with the child first before photographs are posted, and respect the child’s wishes.