While social messaging sites can be a great way to keep in touch with your friends and family, they are not always safe environments in which to communicate. For children in particular, the dangers are heightened, as ChildFund is unable to monitor online communications. Social media can leave children vulnerable to the following scenarios:
- Contact from an individual who claims to be the child’s sponsor, but who is unknown to the organisation and with whom the child has no relationship.
- Communications, content and images which are inappropriate for a child to read or view, and which may also offend their cultural, religious or ethnic sensibilities.
Ultimately, there are few Australian parents who would allow their own child to have online communication with an adult whose identity they are unable to verify. Ensuring the safety and protection of all children living in the communities where we work is of paramount importance to ChildFund, and unfortunately social media sites pose too many risks to children, which we feel negate the benefit of using them for child-sponsor communications.
Risk for sponsors – Using social networking sites can also leave our supporters vulnerable to criminal or unlawful activities by people acting under an alias. For example, an individual who knows your sponsored child may create a false name using that child’s identity, and attempt to defraud or threaten you as the sponsor of that child.
How to contact your child – To ensure the continued safety of communications between sponsored children and ChildFund supporters, we ask everyone to ensure that their correspondence is sent via the relevant ChildFund country office without exception. This ensures that ChildFund can monitor any communications to ensure that both the sponsor and sponsored child are protected from inappropriate content, abuse and any fraudulent activities.
ChildFund Australia policy – As an organisation, it is impossible for us to guarantee the safety of both parties on social networking sites. As such, ChildFund will take any unauthorised contact very seriously. Where a sponsor initiates any contact with their sponsored child within an online environment, they will be asked to cease this form of communication, and reminded that correspondence must go via our country offices. In cases where the unauthorised communication continues, ChildFund may have to resort to cancelling the sponsorship. In instances where a child or their family initiates contact, we will also remind them of correct communication arrangements, and potentially remove the child/family from enrolment if they ignore this request. We hope that you understand our concerns, and support our efforts to keep communications for both parties safe, secure and unexposed to the dangers of outside interference by unknown persons. We are sure you will understand that ChildFund has to act on any matters that might put either sponsors or sponsored children in danger.