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  • A father of a 12-year-old announced in our training seminar recently that he found over 400 text messages on his son’s phone from a male that was 30 years older than his son.  He didn’t even know they were friends.  Apparently this was an occasional helper at a youth drop-in center where his son would go after school. 

    These stories are not uncommon, we hear about them weekly.  Social networking and communicating via SKYPE, Facebook, instant messaging, Twitter and Text are very common.  It is part of the culture which our young people find themselves.

    Yes, this father has cause to be concerned.

    With the different means of communication available well beyond phone calls or sending letters in the mail, unrestricted access to children and youth has risen to a new level. Five years ago the average young person sent 700 – 1,400 text messages per week, now this number has tripled.  Parents raise eyebrows when they find out that youth sponsor is contributing to this number without their knowledge.  It is no longer surprising to find messages on our kids phones and computers from individuals we may not know. 

    Add on to this the increased prevalence of young people engaged in sexting!  Sexting is when someone sends or receives a sexually explicit text, image or video on their mobile phone, usually in a text message. With Smart Phones now available with two way FaceTime camera communication, we have more reason to be concerned. 

    The one question I am asked more than any other is “Melodie, how do we even begin to monitor and supervise what our staff and volunteers do on-line and via social media?”

    I believe organization leaders should be asking questions like this.  We recommend that organizations that service young people develop policies for social networking and communicating for this very reason.  We also recommend that organizations establish parameters for their staff and volunteers to interact with minors. 

    For years we have been encouraging our clients to monitor and supervise on-line communication, and require that all communication be done in public. In other words, if you wish to communicate with a child under the age of 13 by email it is best to email the parent(s). 

    Today young people 13 years of age and older rarely send emails, rather they use messaging, texts, tweets.  Encouraging this communication to be monitored closely and to establish parameters around communication has been near impossible.

    Until we found msgbox®!

    msgbox® is an ideal solution to provide accessible communication for young people and your staff and volunteers. 

    Key benefits of msgbox®:

    1)      Building relationships with young people on the channel they use the most – text and web messaging
    2)      Mitigate liability for the organization, staff and volunteers
    3)      Remain compliant – securely track, audit and archive conversations
    4)      Save time and money

    Finally, a viable solution for nurturing relationships on line with young people that will enable friendships and relationships to grow.  Communication … speaking the language, with the means that young people in 2016 use – text messages and  messaging    A solution to help empower your staff and volunteers to connect and build relationships with their students, while demonstrating your care for them as volunteers and staff through an accountable management system.   I am thrilled to endorse msgbox® for Plan to Protect® clients. 

    Please note, we do maintain that parental permission should be requested when you register students to your program.  This can be as easy as including this type of question:

    Communication:
    A policy is in effect that communication is to be used solely for the dissemination of information. We use msgbox® to communicate and monitor all communication.  Please sign below to grant permission for Ministry Personnel (staff and volunteers) to communicate with your Child via telephone, email, social media and text:

    • Telephone       (home / work / cell)
    • Social Media Networks*
    • Email *
    • Text messages*

    * For Young People 13 years of age and older.

    Providing a resource like msgbox® will empower your screened staff and volunteers to communicate with students while role-modeling accountability and integrity, and reducing the risk of abuse, and false allegations.

    Are you interested in msgbox®, CLICK HERE

    Melodie Bissell is President of Plan to Protect®, a training and consulting organization that provides the highest standard of abuse prevention and protection for organizations servicing the vulnerable sector globally. www.plantoprotect.com

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