1.86 billion people log into their Facebook account at least once a month–that’s almost 1/4 of the total global population! This number doesn’t even include other outlets like Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. People in developing countries are no exception to this global trend, and chances are, the child you sponsor has a social media account too. 

Social media today is one of the main ways people build relationships with each other. As a child sponsor, or a mission team member who’s thinking about sponsoring a child, you probably have the desire to build a lasting relationship with a child in need, and social media is a tempting outlet. We love that sponsors want to take the initiative to communicate with their child because we believe building relationships is key when empowering those in need.

So why is this blog called, “Why Can’t I Instant Message My Sponsored Child?” when seemingly everyone in the world communicates this way? Well, we have a few good reasons why social media could actually work against the growing relationship you have with your sponsored child rather than help it.

If you were to communicate with your sponsored child through social media, you’d be missing the opportunity to bond in a more substantial way like writing a letter. By taking the time to write letters, you’re showing a child that they’re important enough for you to spend some thoughtful time hand-writing a letter to them. Children often keep the letters they receive from their sponsors, reading them over and over again. In this way your letter is a gift to your child–something they can keep and treasure–which only enhances the value of your relationship. Letters are the best way to communicate with your sponsored child because they give you an opportunity to share substantial information about you and your family and ask important questions about your child. If you would like help with ideas on what to write, check out our Tips for Writing a Letter to Your Child blog here. Letters are also translated by our staff, which prevents cultural misunderstandings or awkward situations from happening.

For example, imagine the following Facebook chat between a sponsor and a child:

Now let’s take a look at what this team member and child were actually thinking during this Facebook chat.

Through brief social media conversations, intentions can easily be misunderstood. As you can see in this Facebook chat, the team member simply wanted to be supportive, but found herself making an unhealthy offer that could cause big problems down the road. In general, chat discussions cannot be monitored (for both the safety of the child and the sponsor), and leave too much room for conversations to turn directions that can be unsafe. Hand-written letters provide the opportunity for misunderstandings to be mediated by our staff, and actually enhance the relationship because more thoughtful efforts are put forth.

After years of witnessing cross-cultural relationships in global ministry, we’ve learned that when building those relationships, social media communication can be more harmful than helpful. That’s why we’ve adopted the following policy:

Forward Edge encourages a growing relationship between sponsor and child. In order to ensure these relationships remain safe and healthy, all communication must be in written or email form and channeled through the Forward Edge IHQ. Additionally, in an effort to uphold appropriate boundaries for everyone involved, all communication through social media – such as Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, WhatsApp, etc – is prohibited.

We know this social media policy will help you build the best possible relationship with your sponsored child, and we thank you for the time, energy, and love you’re willing to pour into these children!

Check out these inspiring child sponsorship stories

AIDS Orphan Dreams of Being a Doctor

The Story of a Growing Family