Adoption works much differently today than it did 100, 50 and even 10 years ago — and part of that has to do with the rise of social media. In many ways, social media has changed adoption for the better. It often allows for easier open adoption contact, and there are many positive stories of happy adoption reunions made possible through Facebook.

But social media can also cause some complications if it’s not used appropriately. That’s why American Adoptions encourages birth and adoptive parents to think about the role social media will play in their relationship even before placement.

If you’re making an open adoption plan with American Adoptions, your adoption specialist can help you develop a plan for pre- and post-adoption social media use. Even if you don’t have a social media plan in place with your adoption today, it’s important to follow some simple etiquette guidelines when talking about it online. Here are just a few to consider:

1. Put privacy first.

Before sharing anything about your adoption plan, first check your privacy settings to see who has access to the information you share. Do you really want friends of friends or the general public to know sensitive information about your adoption process? Adjust your privacy settings to limit the people who will see any adoption details you share, and never share identifying information about the birth or adoptive family without their permission. Keep in mind that even with strict privacy settings, it can be difficult to control the spread of information once it’s shared online. Assume that nothing you post is truly private — once it’s been shared, it can live forever in one form or another. Whether it’s captured in a screenshot or reposted by well-meaning friends and family members, information can quickly open up to a wider audience than you originally intended.

2. Establish boundaries.

In addition to setting social media boundaries with your child’s birth or adoptive parents, it’s important to set boundaries with your own friends and family members. If you share information about your adoption plan with anyone in your social circle, make sure they’re aware of your agreed-upon social media plan. Make your wishes clear regarding what should be shared about your family and adoption plan online.

3. Discuss friend requests.

It should be clear from the beginning who you will accept friend and follower requests from, including extended birth and adoptive family members. You should also talk about how birth parents should respond if, when the child is older, he or she reaches out to them via social media. Social media may or may not be an appropriate place to make this connection, depending on the child’s age, the birth parent’s comfort level and the openness in the adoption.

4. Consider alternatives.

Sometimes, it is easiest for everyone involved to use a private photo-sharing website or separate Facebook page when sharing adoption information. Consider using a password-protected photo website or app to create photo galleries of your child. Or, set up a separate, private Facebook page to easily share updates and milestones with as many birth and adoptive family members as want to be included. This way, you can share adoption information with a select group without including the day-to-day information you might share on your public social media accounts.

5. Be respectful.

The key to any successful open adoption is respect, and the same is true when you are sharing contact online. Remember that your adoption story is shared among all members of the adoption triad; when you share your adoption story on social media, you are also sharing your child’s story and their birth/adoptive family’s story. Be mindful of how this could impact everyone involved. For example, avoid posting emotionally charged messages about other members of the adoption triad, and if you’re an adoptive family, consider sharing your child’s major milestones with the birth parents before posting to your social networks. When in doubt, ask yourself, “What if my child saw this? What if my child’s birth/adoptive family saw this?” Even if you think the chances of them seeing it are slim, it’s important to always be respectful.

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to social media and adoption, and these are just a few of the tips you might find useful as you’re creating your own social media plan or navigating your current open adoption and social media habits. If you have questions about what’s appropriate to share on social media, or if you want help establishing social media boundaries in your adoption, call 1-800-ADOPTION to talk an adoption specialist.