Social Networking & Safeguarding 2020

Recently I received an email if this particular post would be updated for 2020 as a lot has changed…so here’s an update:

Background
In 2009 we published a blog about the use of social networking and child protection. In the last 11 years more and more young people have engaged with using social networking and sites like Myspace and Bebo have been replaced with Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp.

Social networking can be a really powerful tool for connecting with young people, plugging events and engaging them in conversation however it doesn’t come without risks.

This blog post contains some tips and things to think about especially with regards to Facebook.

Age of Consent
Many young people are on social networks and often at younger ages than the social networks allow for. Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat all have a minimum age of 13 and WhatsApp is 16. If you’re going to use these in youth work it’s important to have parental consent to connect with young people through these (and please don’t use Snapchat!!!).

Tips for Paid Youth Workers

In our previous post back in 2016 we recommended that youth workers have a ‘work’ and ‘personal’ account however this is against Facebook’s terms and conditions and can get all of your accounts closed by Facebook.

Instead, in order to keep your work and personal Facebook separate (in order to maintain professional boundaries and to ensure inappropriate comments by your friends are not visible to young people there are several approaches you might use.

1. The Facebook Page
Facebook Pages give those engaging with them an opportunity to ‘like’ the page and be kept up to date with Page updates. Whilst you need a personal Facebook account to manage a page you don’t have ‘friends’ on a page the same way you do with a personal account. This is probably the best approach for connecting with young people on Facebook (with parental consent) as young people can choose to engage, you can have multiple administrators of your youth group page and young people can privately message the page too. 

2. The List and Privacy Rule Approach
If, for whatever reason, you decide adding young people on your personal Facebook account is the right approach (assuming your organisation’s safeguarding policy reflects this) then you should think about making use of Facebook’s privacy rules and lists.

Lists enable you to cluster groups of friends into categories e.g. ‘young people’. When you post on Facebook you can then choose to exclude this group from seeing your post or solely target them with a post.

Likewise, using privacy rules you can do things like decide which content on your profile certain lists can/can’t view.

Keep in mind though, that for accountability it’s probably best to ensure that someone else can view your profile/messages which is why the page approach is best!

Tips for Volunteers

Often in our churches volunteers are friends of the family and so a blanket ban on volunteers being friends with young people can be tricky however it’s important to make sure they’re aware of your safeguarding policy. We give our volunteers a leaflet when they start to help out and the section on ‘using social networking’ reads as follows;

Social networking can be a helpful tool in working with young people. If you choose to use these in your ministry please ensure that the safe behaviour code continues into the virtual world of social networking sites, keeping your profile appropriate for the viewing of young people.

If you’re contacting young people using these sites always do this in a public way. Do not use instant chat or private messages even if a young person sends you messages using these tools. It is also important that you also avoid using abbreviations such as ‘LOL’ as these can be misinterpreted by parents/guardians.

Remember to apply all the other good practice guidelines discussed within this leaflet in any interaction you have with young people online.

This guidance is still useful for volunteers but a better approach would be to encourage volunteers not to ‘friend’ young people on Facebook but for you to invite some of your volunteers to help you run the Facebook page (as outlined earlier on in this post).

Sample Child Protection Policy on Social Networking

Previously we had a sample policy however it hadn’t been updated recently and whilst safeguarding has been an integral part of my ministry I am not a safeguarding expert and so I strongly recommend that in order to put together an effective safeguarding policy around the use of social media for your organisation you do one (or more) of the following:

  • Look at your denominations website – many denominations such as the Methodist Church and Church of England have policies for the use of social networking on their website. It’s important that you follow these in the first basis.
  • Thirty-One Eight offer lots of great advice on safeguarding (and they’re experts!)
  • Talk with other local organisations…find out what other youth workers do, work together on something and then help keep each other accountable.

Isolation Activities for Young People

Across the world youth groups are being postponed for the foreseeable future due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

The brilliant Katherine-Alice Grasham (Children, Young People and Families Team Member at the Diocese of Leeds) has put together this list of group challenges for youth groups in self-isolation.

You might like to share one a week with your group via your usual communication channels (make sure you’re complying with good safeguarding practices when using these).

Download the resource

How else are you keeping in contact with your youth group during this time? We are part of a Facebook Think Tank group for sharing good practice for engaging with young people online. You can find out more about the group here or request to join it here.

Supporting children with anxiety and depression

Today we have a guest blog from the Priory Group who have just released some new resources for those supporting children and young people with anxiety and depression. Information is provided by Dr Hayley van Zwanenberg.

Anxiety and depression can be difficult for anyone to experience. But for children and teenagers, they can feel even more overwhelming and unconquerable. 

One in eight children live with a mental health disorder, says NHS Digital. When a child or teenager has a condition such as anxiety or depression, it can seriously affect their health and wellbeing. They aren’t pleasant illnesses and can be incredibly confusing for a child to experience, who may not understand what they are feeling or why they are feeling a certain way. 

When a child is dealing with anxiety or depression, they may try to put on a brave face to cover up their emotions and hide how they feel from others. They may also choose to keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves, as a result of being too scared or embarrassed about what they are going through. This can stop them from reaching out for the help and support that they need to get better.

It is valuable for those looking after children and teenagers to be able to recognise the signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression so that they can take steps to support the child. 

Teenage depression and childhood anxiety guides 

Priory Group has put together guides on childhood anxietyand teenage depressioncontaining valuable advice and information on the mental health conditions. 

These guides are useful for parents, carers and guardians. They outline the signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression, and recommend effective support and treatment. 

The guides also recommend ways to talk to a child about their thoughts and feelings. Having conversations on the topic of mental health, what it is and how it can be treated can be incredibly valuable. These discussions can remove any stigma surrounding mental health and can help children to recognise that it’s ok to open up about their thoughts and feelings.

For children and teenagers who are experiencing mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, it is important that they get access to treatment as early as possible so that they can manage their condition, and recover in the long term. These guides outline the treatment and therapies that can be provided at places like the Priory, which can help a child to make positive changes and learn strategies to help them stay well in the future. 

Job Opportunity – Full time Youth Worker – Hertfordshire

Northchurch Baptist Church is looking to appoint a Youth Worker to oversee our work among 11-18 year olds, to reach out to the young people of Northchurch, and to play a key role in inspiring a generation of young people in faith and discipleship.The role-holder will be responsible for: co-ordinating and overseeing the youth work both on Sundays and during the week, reaching out to secondary schools and families in the local
community; helping young people to explore what it means to be a Christian, whatever stage they are at, and discipling and equipping young people in their faith.The successful applicant will love young people, communicate well with them and have a desire to see them become Christian disciples. They will model a Godly example of Christian discipleship and will be able to work as part of a team, motivated to facilitate the growth of God’s kingdom in Northchurch.

Salary: £20,000 – £26,000 depending on experience
Benefits: Pension and generous leave package.
For further details please visit: www.northchurch.com/vacancies
Applications to be emailed to Anna.FitzPatrick@northchurch.com 
Closing date: Thursday 30 May 2019

Job – Youth Worker – Fairfield Church, Northwood Hills (Full Time)

We are seeking to make a full-time appointment for the above position to start in summer 2019 as our present Youth and Communities Pastor is getting married and moving away in July having worked with us for 5 years. 

You’ll get to work as part of an amazing paid and volunteer team, at a well-resourced church in a great location. Fairfield is a thriving, independent, evangelical Church approx. 15 miles North West of London, made up of a diverse cross-section of around 170 adults, with a high proportion of families and young people. 

We are looking to recruit a new youth worker. This is a role in a succession of dynamic youth leaders caring for around 70 children and young people under 21 associated with Church families (and specifically about 30 in the 11-21 age group) as well as leading outreach games evenings which attract around 40 children aged 9-12.

This role provides a great opportunity for an enthusiastic, energised Christian with a desire to see young people come into a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ through discipleship, evangelism and encouragement. It is a full-time role with commitments currently defined for Thursday and Friday evenings and Sunday mornings plus a Wednesday morning staff meeting. Supported by others, this person will take a lead role in organising and leading various events for our young people both internally and with other local churches and external Christian organisations (eg camps/festivals).

This role is primarily focused on the 11 to 21 age group but depending on the candidate’s experience and ambitions could be combined with oversight of our wider Children’s work. Alternatively the role could involve responsibility for our community engagement. In essence, the shape of the role can be based upon the person, taking into account our other staffing and resources.

We offer an attractive remuneration package dependent on experience with opportunities for training. Local accommodation may also be available. The post is initially a 3 year contract with the potential for renewal.

A more detailed job description can be found below. If you are interested then please make initial contact by emailing recruitment@fairfield-church.org.ukwith a few lines about why this role attracts you. We can then follow up with more information on the church and details of the application process. Please do not send a CV at this stage.

You can visit our website at www.fairfield-church.org.uk

Download the Job Description here.

Job – Full-time Youth and Children’s Worker, Midhurst Parish, West Sussex

St Mary Magdalene & St Denys

Youth and Children Worker, Midhurst Parish Church

A new full-time post

Salary range £25,225 – £26,718

Midhurst Parish Church is at the heart of the community in Midhurst, West Sussex and is an Anglican Church within the Diocese of Chichester.  Midhurst is an historic market town in the South Downs National Park.  We have been expanding our engagement with children and young people and now have a vision for a linked pathway of thriving age-appropriate activities to engage children and young people through their schooldays, and beyond, so that they have a lifetime’s appreciation of Jesus’ presence in their lives.  We want to enable them to know, love and to follow Jesus.

To help us to achieve this we wish to employ a full-time Youth and Children Worker to support a growing band of volunteers.

For an application pack please contact david.griffiths@midhurstparishchurch.net

Closing date:  Wednesday 24thApril 2019

Interviews will be held in Midhurst on Saturday 4thMay 2019

The successful applicant will be required to undertake an Enhanced DBS check before appointment and the position is subject to satisfactory references and a probation period. It is an occupational requirement of this role that the post holder is a committed Christian. We are only able to consider applicants who are already permitted to and can provide evidence of their eligibility to work in the UK.