“Female karate teacher sends nude photos to 11-year-old student and invites him over to her house for sex.”
“Youth pastor accused of sending sexual texts to 15 year old.”
“Camp Director sends inappropriate snapchat messages to campers.”
“Teacher sentenced for texting student thousands of times.”
“Eight year old posts backdrop of pornography on a zoom call.”
Unfortunately, these are just some of the headlines regarding inappropriate technology use in child and youth-serving organizations. What’s an organization to do?
Do you write a policy forbidding all social media, emails, text, phone calls and communication between minors and your staff and volunteers? But what if you need to let students know something about the program… “it’s the way they communicate” ... “what if they message you?” How can we handle digital communication in a safe way in the 21st century?
The internet is an incredible resource and tool for education, communication, connection and community ... so I wouldn’t recommend throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Instead, organizations should seek to educate and communicate with volunteers and staff the appropriate ways to use technology through clear, concise, board-approved policies.
“Managing risk is not about saying no to the ... opportunities created by social media. It’s about how to say yes, responsibly and wisely.” - Ken Hall, Using Social Media, Robertson Hall Insurance.
So what does it look like to say “yes” responsibly and wisely?
Here are 7 things to consider including in your policy. All communication outside of regularly scheduled program hours should:
What should a volunteer or staff member do if a conversation ever moves beyond the communication of information?
So, can we use digital communication in our programs?Yes. If we follow these guidelines, we can use communication in a safe, secure way - ensuring that we protect children/youth and volunteers/staff. Thus, opening the lines of communication, connection, education and community.