Guidelines on the use of social media in our work with children and young people
These guidelines cover the best-practice approach to using social media where young people are involved. It includes an outline of the risks and our responsibilities to keep young people safe.
Most young people, if not all, have grown up with the internet and use social media on a daily basis.
The Church must try to minimise the risk of content which is inappropriate for children being posted on our sites, or of adults grooming children.
Those who lead or act as monitors on our social media sites which are used by children, those associated with the Church and their activities, will be required to join the PVG scheme. (Protection of Vulnerable Groups) They will also be required to undertake the safeguarding training for volunteers, which is provided by Presbytery. Stow Brae Kirk and the Church of Scotland use social media as an important communication channel, and we have a responsibility to keep all of our members and volunteers safe. You also have a responsibility to your own safety when working with young people.
Volunteers and staff – dos and don’ts
Some simple tips for volunteers and staff to consider when posting information on social media channels that children and young people have access to, or when communicating directly with children and young people via the internet:
- Consider setting a Focus Group to have more control over access and content. Emphasise the need for privacy controls. Refer posts to monitors for approval before posting.
- Keep the focus on Stow Brae Kirk activity – don’t ask about the young person’s private life or share details about yours. Do not let children post personal information.
- Don’t use webcams, except where it’s part of the activity which has been approved by Session. Do not allow children to use their mobile phones to record activities.
- Keep the tone of the post suitable for children – avoid ‘adult’ themes (such as getting drunk, dating).
- Don’t post upsetting or distressing images.
- Never make suggestive or flirtatious comments to children and young people; never use phrases that could be misconstrued or have sexual connotations.
- Don’t use racist, explicit, inflammatory or derogatory language.
- Never arrange to meet with a child unless this is part of a Stow Brae Church activity or event. The child’s parents or carers should have been made aware of it, and have given consent for their child to take part.
- Never post photographs of children on unofficial social media sites even when a parental consent form has been signed. Be aware that photos posted online can be saved and reused without your knowledge. Take steps to lessen chances of this happening, perhaps by using a logo on them.
- Tell your Safeguarding Coordinator if you suspect that a young person is acting inappropriately towards you online – this might include attention-seeking behaviour.
- Keep your social interactions public – don’t use direct messaging or private conversations.
- If you’re an adult volunteer or staff member and a young person asks to become “friends” with you online, DO NOT ACCEPT. There are risks (to you both). How might the friendship be perceived by others? You must NOT be a “friend” to a child online or ask them to “befriend” you.
- Remember that anything you post online can’t be guaranteed to stay private – it may remain online for many years, and could be seen by anyone. Despite privacy settings, you should assume, because of the way Facebook works, that it will become public.
- Warn the children never to go alone to meet someone that they have met on the internet. That person might not be who the child thinks it is.
Reporting online abuse
- Talk to your Safeguarding Coordinator or, if you’re a young person, to a responsible adult, who MUST pass the information on to the Safeguarding Coordinator.
- If you’re worried or upset about something you’ve seen online, don’t be afraid to report it to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) or the police: go to www.ceop.police.uk.
- Many social sites have ‘report abuse’ buttons.
If you’re concerned for a child or young person’s safety online * You should treat this as a safeguarding issue: see the Safeguarding Young People policy on the Church Notice Board.
- Record any evidence or information relating to your concern and discuss this immediately with your Safeguarding Coordinator. Forms are available on the Safeguarding Noticeboard to assist you.
- If a young person discloses a concern to you, listen without judgement and give reassurance. Remember you must keep matters confidential but not secret. Contact your Safeguarding Coordinator as soon as possible; she will advise and support you.
If you’re concerned about a colleague’s online activity in relation to a child
- Similarly, if you’ve got concerns about a colleague’s behaviour towards a child or young person online, contact your Safeguarding Coordinator for advice.
- Keep records – for example, screenshots of online conversations, or notes on something you’ve heard. Use the form which will be found on the Safeguarding Noticeboard to assist you
- Remember that the priority is to ensure the safety of the child. You should be mindful that the reputation of the Stow Brae Kirk and the Church of Scotland could be severely damaged if action was not taken and it subsequently emerged that the colleague’s behaviour towards the child was abusive.
- Do not attempt to investigate or verify any allegations yourself. Report it to the Safeguarding Coordinator who will take the appropriate next steps. Remember that any such information should be kept confidential. Do not discuss it with others.