Social media guidance
Social media has transformed the way we live and communicate however there are challenges to ensure we can protect children from the potential of cyber bullying and other areas of online abuse.
It must be made clear that the Angling Trust has no intention of suggesting that all clubs/coaches and fisheries refrain from using social media as a tool, but that education is provided as to the most appropriate and safe methods for using it.
The use of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Bebo are a huge phenomenon and are increasingly used as a communication tool. These sites permit users to chat online, post pictures, send messages, write ‘blogs’ and so on, using an online profile that can be publicly available or restricted to an approved circle of online ‘friends’.
Facebook is the largest such site, reported to have in excess of 1 billion users worldwide
Sites such as YouYube and Instagram provide a platform for uploading and viewing video clips and photographs. The latest mobile telephone technology means that access to this media is becoming ever easier and can be almost instantaneous.
Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging service that enables users to send and read other user messages, called ‘tweets’. Tweets are like online text messages of up to a maximum of 140 characters, displayed on the author’s profile page. Tweets are publicly visible by default, although the user can restrict message delivery to their friends only.
For more detail about the use of social networking in sport, see www.thecpsu.org.uk
With the growth of social media and IT technologies there is a growing risk of misuse. Potential risks include cyberbullying (bullying online), grooming and potential abuse by online predators, identity theft and exposure to inappropriate content.
- Cyberbullying is one of the worst, most menacing forms of bullying because it can be so hard to escape. It can follow children and young people around 24 hours a day, targeting them whenever they are online, even at home. Bullying online is as serious as bullying in the real world and must not be tolerated.
- There are a growing number of cases in sport where adults have used social networking sites as a means of grooming children and young people for sexual abuse. If an adult is able to discover information about a young person’s interests and social habits, they can figure out ways to appeal to them and gain their trust. Any personal information offered may also allow them to identify and locate them offline.
- There have also been a number of cases in sport where adults have used a child’s online identity (i.e. identity theft) in order to groom another child for sexual abuse.
- The internet may expose children to inappropriate content including self-harm, racism, hate or adult pornography, or encourage them to post inappropriate content themselves.
For more support or information relating to online grooming, look at www.thecpsu.org.uk
Online grooming may include:
- gathering personal details such as age, name, address, mobile phone number, name of school and photographs;
- promising meetings with sports idols or celebrities;
- offering cheap tickets to sports or other events, gifts including electronic games or software, or merchandise;
- paying a child/young person to appear naked or perform sexual acts;
- bullying and intimidating behaviour, such as threatening to tell a child/young person’s parents about their communications, or saying they know where the child lives, goes fishing, or goes to school.
- Asking sexual-themed questions such as ‘Do you have a boyfriend?’ or ‘Are you a virgin?’
- Sending sexual-themed images to a child, depicting adult content of abuse of other children.
- Masquerading as a minor or assuming a false online identity in order to deceive a child.
- Using school or hobby websites (including sports) to gather information about a child’s interests, likes and dislikes.
Advice for Clubs
Review your Child Protection/Safeguarding policies and procedures:
Clubs need to ensure that existing policy and procedures address the safeguarding of children and young people online, including how to report concerns and deal with any incidents. Safety online is an integral part of child welfare today, rather than an isolated issue.
Policies for safeguarding children online should cover:
- The potential risks and indicators of online grooming and sexual exploitation of children and young people. These should be reviewed on a regular basis in light of incidents dealt with by the club and cases known to law enforcement.
- Procedures for the reporting of potentially illegal/abusive content or activity, including images of child sexual abuse and online grooming concerns.
In addition, clubs should:
- Have a plan of action to deal with cyberbullying and use it to challenge any misuse. Adults should underline the message that cyberbullying is as serious as bullying in the real world, and encourage children to behave safely online. This plan of action should include these steps:
- Showing children they can report misuse and that anyone who does will be supported.
- Collecting evidence of any messages sent.
- Finding ways to prevent reoccurrence (e.g. blocking content).
- Containing the incident by removing the content.
- Directing children to support networks (beatbullying.org, cybermentors.org.uk).
- Make volunteers/staff aware of the risks inherent in online use and advise them to protect their own privacy by good use of privacy settings.
- Devise a policy for acceptable use (an Online Behaviour Agreement). This is related to codes of conduct, but should be specifically drafted to deal with online behaviour.
- Only ask for email addresses/mobile numbers/Facebook profiles of juniors with the prior consent of their parents. Copy parents into communications.
- Make parents aware of the steps taken by the club to safeguard children online, including the acceptable use policy and its implications for their child’s behaviour
- Be clear about the processes by which children/parents may raise their concerns.
- If the club has a website, ensure that content is age-appropriate and monitor the content, particularly when there is a discussion forum. Use the privacy and safety settings of the host site and review regularly.
Advice for Individuals
- Do not accept children as contacts on social networking sites if you hold a position of trust with children/young people.
- Where contact through social networking sites is used for professional reasons, restrict the communication to professional content and obtain written consent from parents prior to establishing contact.
- Include a third party in any communications to children, e.g. copy parents into communications.
- Use the privacy settings on the various sites to ensure that your content will only be viewed by appropriate people.
- Ensure that any content you place on a social networking site is age-appropriate. Do not use the site to criticise or abuse others.
- Know where to direct junior members and their parents for information, as described earlier in this section of the site.
- Know how to report concerns.
- Know how to keep data safe and secure. This should include the personal contact data of individuals, such as mobile numbers, email addresses and social networking profiles.
Advice for Children
- Consider carefully who you invite to be your friend online and make sure they are who you actually think they are. There are websites that offer advice about protecting yourself online, such as www.ceop.gov.uk and www.childnet.com.
- Make sure you use privacy settings so that that only friends can view your profile.
- Remember that anything you post on websites may be shared with people you don’t know.
- Never post comments, photos, videos, etc., that may upset someone, that are untrue or that are hurtful. Think about whether you may regret posting the content at a later date.
- If you are worried or upset about something that’s been posted about you, or by texts you receive from other juniors or adults involved with the club, raise this with your Club Welfare Officer, secretary, coach or junior organiser. Do not suffer alone. You will be listened to and your concerns will be taken seriously.
- If you want to talk to someone anonymously, call Childline on 0800 1111, or contact them on the web at www.childline.org.uk. You can also call the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000.
Advice for Parents
- Make yourself knowledgeable about social networking platforms and how they work.
- Go on the internet with your child and agree what sites are OK to visit. Regularly check that they are staying within the agreed limits.
- Encourage your child to talk to you about what they have been doing on the internet. Make sure they feel able to speak to you if they ever feel uncomfortable, upset or threatened by anything they see online.
- Encourage children to look out for each other when they're online. Explain that it's all part of staying safe and having fun together.
- Explain to children that it's not safe to reveal personal information, such as their name, address or phone number on the internet. Encourage them to use a cool nickname rather than their own name.
- Attachments and links in emails can contain viruses and may expose children and young people to inappropriate material. Teach children to only open attachments or click on links from people they know.
Further Advice for Parents
If you are concerned about any texts, social networking posts or any other use of communication technology by members of the club, volunteers or members of staff, raise this with the club welfare officer, club secretary, or junior organiser. They will look into the matter and take appropriate action. Alternatively contact your National Governing Body Lead Child Protection Officer.
- In addition to reporting concerns to the NGB, you should immediately report possible online abuse to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) or the police. Law enforcement agencies and the internet service provider may need to take urgent steps to locate a child and/or remove the content from the internet. Where a young person may be in immediate danger, dial 999.
- Do not post/send negative or critical comments or messages about other children in the club, staff or volunteers. If you have concerns about a person, these should be raised using appropriate channels within the club and not using social media.
If you wish to speak to an organisation for advice, you can contact the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000.