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:

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. 

100 Questions App – Update

Back in May 2018 we launched the ‘100 Questions – Youth’ app in the Apple App Store and over the last few months it’s been great to hear stories of people using it in their youth ministry. The app cost (and still costs) 99p…which we don’t think is a lot to ask for a youth work resource.

Last week we pushed an update to the App Store with a new design and some tweaks under the hood (including making sure questions didn’t repeat any more during a session).

Today we have launched our ‘Lent and Easter Questions’ pack which is an in-app purchase. For 99p you can add an extra 50 questions to your app which focus on themes found throughout Easter and Lent.

Some questions include:

  • Do you have any Easter family traditions?
  • What gives you hope?
  • What can you do to show God’s love to others?
  • Where in the world do you see ‘new life’?
  • How do you like your eggs? Fried? Poached? Scrambled? Some other way?!

We hope this new pack will continue to help you engage young people in conversation.

Download the 100 Questions – Youth App Today!

Pssst…we’re currently working on adding an extra free pack all about social media!

Shoebox Appeal Alternatives

With more and more people wishing to find an alternative to Samaritan’s Purse* (often thanks to the controversial beliefs and actions of Franklin Graham) we’ve put together a list of alternatives to the Christmas shoebox appeal you could use with your church.

1 – If you still want to put together a shoebox!

Filling a shoebox is a fantastic opportunity that children, young people and families all engage with and so many people still want an opportunity to do the same activity but to support a more ethical cause.

If this is you then you might want to:

  • Check out local charities – Many local charities that operate in other countries still do shoe boxes. I live in Essex and a couple of local charities encourage people to put together shoeboxes for countries like Romania. This local link is brilliant as you can often hear stories of how your gift has made a difference first hand…you could also arrange a mission trip for some young people to join the trip to hand out shoeboxes.
  • One example of the above is Essex based charity Cry in the Dark. Check their appeal out here.
  • Google Search your town and shoebox appeal. For example a quick google search for ‘Southend shoebox appeal’ tells me that there’s a shoebox appeal to help local homeless people.
  • Link to Hope – This Christian charity organises a shoebox appeal – Details here

2 – Other Ideas
If the idea of a shoebox doesn’t bother you then here are a few other ideas for making a difference in the lives of others at Christmas.

  • Salvation Army – Each year the Salvation Army run a Christmas Present Appeal. This let’s you buy a gift for a child or young person which is donated to your local Salvation Army centre and given to a child or young person who may not otherwise get something. This is a brilliant way to make an impact in your local community. Details here.
  • Refuge – Refuge supports women and children who have suffered domestic violence. They run an appeal that lets you raise money to buy a refuge parcel. Details here.
  • Oxfam – Oxfam let you buy gifts that help others. You could raise money to buy a goat, safe water, support a refugee or do all sorts of things. Details here.
  • Pick another charity! – Pick a charity your church, youth or children’s group are passionate about and do a fundraiser to raise money for them this Christmas (or just encourage people to donate on top of their Christmas spending)

*Don’t get us wrong…supporting the shoebox appeal of Samaritan’s Purse still makes a huge difference in the lives of children…but there are other options!

We made an app! – 100 Questions – Youth

I’m really excited to announce that Youth Work Resource has created an iOS app!

100 Questions is available now on the Apple App store and is a simple to use app containing 100 questions for use with young people.

The questions cover a range of topics including:

  • Getting to know each other
  • Hopes and dreams
  • Beliefs
  • Social justice

To use the app you simply download it from the iOS App store, open it up and you’re presented with one of the questions. To move onto the next question you tap the button at the base of the screen or shake your device. The 100 questions are displayed in a random order.

There’s a few ideas on how you could use the app over on the app’s webpage here.

Get 100 Questions on the app store today!

Whilst we usually try and make our resources free this one has a small charge because making apps and getting them onto the app store isn’t cheap however it’s cheaper than many resources out there and will only set you back £1.99 (or just 99p until the end of August!)