Can you become friends with your sponsored child on social media? It's a question we get asked quite a lot! Though it seems like a convenient option, we don't recommend social media communication between supporters and sponsored children.

Social media has quickly become a normal part of daily life for many people. Internet access and mobile phones are widely accessible around the world, and it's never been easier to communicate quickly and freely in our global neighbourhood.

So what does that mean for Compassion sponsors and sponsored children?

Social media communication between sponsors and sponsored children might seem to save time and money. But the reality is that the risks this channel presents overshadow the potential benefits.

What should I do if my sponsored child adds me on social media?

Even though children and youth in Compassion’s programs are asked not to contact their sponsors on social media, you may still receive a friend request or message from the child.

We kindly ask that you don't accept social media friend requests or messages from your sponsored child and their family.

It's really special to build a friendship with your sponsored child, and your words of encouragement are deeply valued. But the safest way for you and your sposnored child to communicate is through letters.

Why shouldn’t I add my sponsored child on social media?

There are some key reasons why we discourage this type of interaction, and we really appreciate your understanding on this issue.

Compassion has an obligation to create a safe environment for every child and supporter. We always need to ensure child protection, privacy and security of information.

1. Risks for sponsors

Communicating through social media could put your personal information in the hands of other people. That's because the friend request or message may not have been initiated by your sponsored child. Friends and family connected with your sponsored child could use their profile to interact with you and, in rare cases, ask you for additional funds or other favours. Without Compassion’s input and guidance, it is difficult to determine whether these requests are genuine and what the true motivation is behind them.

There could also be cultural sensitivities or language barriers that may offend or confuse one another, despite everyone’s best intentions. When you send online or paper letters to your sponsored child, we have a trained team of translators in each program country ready to help navigate these cultural complexities and sense-check all communication before it is shared.

2. Risks for sponsored children

Correspondence via social media could threaten the safety and protection of your sponsored child. The digital age we live in has created very real and alarming risks for vulnerable children as online child abuse and exploitation has surged.

Compassion has an obligation to protect the young people in our care from sponsors who may not have the child’s best interests in mind. Because of this, we must be aware of what’s being communicated to ensure the child and family's wellbeing.

If your sponsored child does contact you on social media, please let us know. Our local workers in your sponsored child's country can gently remind them 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 social media. Perhaps you've heard stories about other sponsors who've developed great friendships with current or previously sponsored children.

Teacher and student at computer Tanzania

Accepting that friend request or responding to that direct message may seem like it will make communicating with your sponsored child a whole lot simpler. And truthfully, it could. But it can also come at the expense of you and your sponsored child’s safety: something we don’t take lightly.

That's why we strongly discourage supporters from contacting their sponsored child or their sponsored child's family outside of Compassion avenues. Sponsored children and their families are also advised against communication with supporters outside of letters.

Knowing the heart behind our request, please 'un-friend' your sponsored child on social media and do not respond to any future messages or friends requests from the child or their family members. It helps us to protect both you and your sponsored child.

And then, why not jump over to your My Account and send a letter online! It saves on paper and time, there are a beautiful range of letter templates to choose from, and you can even include up to ten images! Online letter-writing through My Account is also the safest and most effective way to build your relationship with your sponsored child. What a great opportunity to share God's unstoppable love for them!

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 understanding.

Words by Compassion Australia. Photos by Craig Thompson and Keely Scott.