Should I Add My Sponsored Child on Social Media?
"Can I become friends with my sponsored child on Facebook?" is one of the most common questions we receive, but the answer isn’t quite as simple as you’d think.
29 Sep, 2016
I was surrounded by 50 kids all laughing, jumping, singing and dancing. It was my first visit to a project in Indonesia and every child wanted a selfie with the Aussie sponsors! All of a sudden this term “selfie” had become an internationally recognised phrase, along with “add me on Facey!”
At first I didn’t think much of it, but on the bus ride back to the hotel, the thought dawned on me. “Add me on Facey? Is that a thing?” Which led me to the question:
What should I do if my sponsored child adds me on Facebook?
Globally, we are more connected through the internet and social media than ever before. I only have to remember the days of sitting in my dark garage in Newcastle surrounded by empty chip packets, crushed coke cans and the faint smell of mould playing Halo 3 against some kid in Singapore (who was absolutely crushing me just quietly), to know that technology has rapidly advanced.
For us as sponsors, this advancement brings a new scenario: the possibility of a sponsored child, or even their family members, adding us on social media. While children in Compassion’s programs are told not to be friends with their sponsors on social media [in order to protect your privacy], they are very curious about you. Despite our staff’s efforts, some children still click the ‘add’ button. If that happens, here’s what you should know.
First up, unfortunately, we don’t recommending adding or accepting a friend request from your sponsored child. Doing so could potentially put your sponsored child at risk of exploitation, and their safety is so important that we cannot brush over this topic lightly.
Why shouldn’t I add my sponsored child on Facebook?
There are important reasons why we discourage this type of interaction. Firstly, your Facebook friend request may not actually be your sponsored child! Friends and family connected with your sponsored child could use their profile to interact with you and potentially place you in an awkward position, like asking for additional funds or other favours. Communicating through social media could also put your personal details or communication in the hands of other people.
There could also be some potential cultural differences or language barriers that may offend or confuse you or your sponsored child, despite everyone’s best intentions. Having an online profile could also put your child’s safety at risk. Social media gives additional vulnerability to children who don’t have the knowledge on how to put boundaries in place when interacting with people on the internet. They might take people at their word or offer up information which could potentially place them in a dangerous position.
If your sponsored child does contact you on social media, please let us know. Our staff members in your child's country can then gently remind the kids of the appropriate methods of contact with their sponsors.
What if I’ve already added my sponsored child as a friend on social media?
You might already be friends with your sponsored child on Facebook. Reading this you could be thinking, ‘I like what I’ve got going, I’m enjoying it, and it’s an easy way for me to connect with my sponsored child.’ Well, my friend, we feel it’s our responsibility to let you know of the potential risks that you might not have been aware of previously. Now it’s completely up to you to either discontinue this type of interaction or not.
Clicking that ‘Accept Friend Request’ button can seem like it will make communicating with your sponsored child a whole lot simpler, but it can also put you and your sponsored child at risk.
In the age of technology, writing letters with pen and paper or even online through our My Account letter writing tool may seem old fashioned (we’re working on it!) but at present it’s the safest and most effective way to build your relationship with your sponsored child.
Compassion Australia always has children’s safety and protection at the heart of what we do. We encourage more than anything that beautiful relationship between sponsor and child, and for it to be done well.
Thank you so much for your willingness and understanding on this topic. Now go and add me on Facey!
Words by Michael Cauchi
Photos by Craig Thompson and Keely Scott