“Adoption in the Age of Social Networking and the Internet”

(Adoption Quarterly 2011 Spring Edition)

“Disruptive technology” is loosely defined as new technology or innovation that radically impacts the status quo and changes the way people deal with something that they are used to dealing with in a certain way.

In the last couple of decades for instance, CD’s and DVD’s displaced cassettes and VHS tapes, wiping out the phonograph industry in the process, while digital cameras have redefined the “film” industry the way we know it. In recent history, some of the easily identifiable disruptive technologies are the mobile phone, the computer and the Internet.

These digital disruptions are so compelling that they have given rise to a brand new set of “digital speak” or lingo recently adopted by the Oxford Dictionary. Internet-inspired expressions such as OMG, LOL, BFF, ROFL and IMHO are among 900 new words now officially recognized by the venerable English reference book.

In turn, the internet, and all of its offshoots under the “social media” label (i.e., email, instant messaging, blogging, online chat, podcast, webcast, video streaming, etc.) gave birth to what we call “social networking” — a phenomenon that has dramatically changed the manner by which people communicate and how individuals share the most intimate details of their lives today.

As technology continues to advance with more people and businesses getting hitched onto the social networking bandwagon, the world becomes even smaller in today’s “microwave society” where everything we want and need is right at our fingertips, available with just a few keystrokes on our cell phone, laptop, and now our iPads or tablet.

From dating, job hunting, shopping, people search, etc., networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace have become part of day-to-day lives of people, adults and children alike.

The dawn of these online habitats is continuously affecting and changing many aspects of society, and the world of adoption is certainly not spared.

While it is not surprising that online outreach in adoptions is increasingly viewed by some adoptive parents and birth parents as a convenient ground for finding, meeting and matching with each other, the process may not be the same for what could happen long after the adoption is finalized. Especially between birth parents and vulnerable young adoptees.

Not too long ago, the UK’s Channel 4 News released a video report about “birth parents using social networking sites to make unsolicited approaches to children” whom they have previously placed for adoption or were taken from them by social services due to abuse and neglect. The report also touched on instances where young adoptees themselves initiate the effort out of curiosity about their birth families.

Although there may be major differences between adoptions in the UK and the US with regards to post-adoption contact, being that this phase of the adoption process is highly-controlled in the UK through intermediaries, the very issue of unsolicited contact through social networking sites could not only be very unnerving for the unexpectant birth parent or adoptee, but could also throw the adoptive parents completely off guard.

As the UK news report went on to say, and we can only agree, “nothing much can be done to turn back the tide of this very modern phenomenon.”

In the US, more research-based studies are slowly coming out warning parents of the perils of social networking websites, especially uncontrolled and unsupervised use of these sites by young teens.

But all hope is not lost. Much like any new creation, be it a device or a process, this technological wonder brings about a whole slew of new challenges to an already-challenging world of parenting and adoption.

And much like any new skill or subject we have yet to master, adoptive parents should prepare for social media challenges by exerting effort to know about it, be familiar with it, and if possible, learn it, to be able to talk to their children about it, monitor their usage, and help them navigate this new online social world unfolding so rapidly before us.

Back to Newsletter Articles

Back to Home Page