Youth Work Electronic communications Policy

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Introduction
Communicating with children and young people is at the heart of what the church does with them, and we have been doing this ever since the church began 2000 years ago. The issues surrounding modern forms of communication are in many ways the same as those surrounding more traditional methods of communication, except that the person is not with you so that neither of you can use facial expression or body language to clarify your meaning (except when using video messaging). It is also usually private, so others are not there to provide context and background. Technology and social media give us new ways to reach young people that we have never had before. However as well as being potentially very positive there are some dangers to communicating in this way which we want to avoid

At St Mary Magdalen Sheet we want all our youth work to do be done in a professional and safe way. These guidelines are here to address these issues and layout a method of working with young people that is positive, safe and effective.

General Points
While there are some points to consider about different methods of communicating with young people that aren’t face to face there are some points to consider that matter no matter what method you are using to communicate with young people:

  • Firstly all communication methods should as much as possible be used purely for communicating information between the youth leader and young person. Any pastoral issues that arise should be dealt with face to face as appropriate, either at the next youth group or if a more urgent response is needed the Youth Worker or Vicar must be contacted and an agreement reached on how best to proceed in line with the Working One to One Policy.
  • If any concerns about a young person are raised during contact with a young person or if you are uncomfortable about a conversation that took place, inform the Youth Worker or Vicar or Safeguarding Officer immediately.
  • Only communicate with young people between the hours of 8am and 8pm, if you wouldn’t talk to them at that time face to face don’t do it online or via phone.
  • As much as possible keep records of any contact made with young people or which young people make to you.
  • We will run regular training on online safety for young people and their parents.
  • We will regularly discuss online bullying with the young people and measures that can be taken to keep them safe.

Social Media/Instant Messaging

  • Youth leaders must not be friends with the young people on Facebook.
  • On other social media services like Twitter (where you don’t accept friends) it is recommended that youth leaders go through their lists regularly and remove any young people who are following them.
  • All communication with young people on social media must take place through the official youth work accounts run by the Youth Worker with oversight and access given to the Vicar.
  • The Safeguarding Officer will be kept informed of which social media accounts are being used for communications.
  • If it becomes necessary for a youth leader to communicate with young people on a social media network a separate account must be setup only with permission from the Youth Worker and Vicar who must be able to access it at any time.
  • A closed Facebook group (invite only) will be run for us to communicate with the young people in church over Facebook.
  • A private Instagram account (invite only) will be run for us to communicate with the young people in church over Instagram.
  • All accounts wherever possible must be set up as private accounts and written permission must be obtained from a young person’s parent before they are allowed to join/follow the account.
  • Whenever possible the Youth Worker will not send direct messages to young people, only communicating with them via public posts and the Facebook group. An offline record must be kept of all direct messages sent and received by the Youth Worker.
  • Only group photos or shots in which it is hard to identify individuals may be used online and then only with parents’ written permission in accordance with the diocesan photo usage policy (section 2D)
  • Video or voice messaging with young people is strongly discouraged. If it must happen it can only be through an official work account agreed with the Youth Worker and Vicar in a public place where people are aware of what is happening and recording of the conversation must take place (with the young person being informed this is happening.)

Mobile Phones

Calls

  • Whenever possible phone calls should be made from the Youth Worker’s mobile phone
  • A record of any phone calls must be made (including the number, time and duration). This can be as simple as a screenshot of the call history if the call was not made on the Youth Worker’s mobile phone.
  • Where possible all calls are made to the young person’s family landline, only if absolutely necessary should the call be made to their mobile phone.
  • Calls should not be between 8pm and 8am except in an emergency. Likewise calls from the young people during this time period should not be answered and whenever possible the Youth Worker’s mobile switched off.
  • Any Pastoral issues should not be dealt with over the phone but face to face according to the working One to One policy. (See General Points.)

Texts

  • Whenever possible texts should be made from the Youth Worker’s mobile phone
  • A record of all messages must be kept
  • They are only to be used for conveying information such as meeting times places, etc.
  • No abbreviations and clear unambiguous language must be used in the messages to avoid misunderstandings.
  • As with phone calls texts should not be sent or replied to between 8pm and 8am.

Photos

  • Photos must only be taken on the Youth Workers work phone, or a camera using the work SD card which is returned to the Youth Worker at the end of the session. They must be used/stored according to the Diocesan photographic policy (section 2D)

Email

  • All contact must be made through the official youth work email accounts managed by the Youth Worker with oversight and access given to the Vicar.
  • A record of all messages must be kept
  • Whenever possible the email should be sent to both the young person and their parents, with parents being aware that we are in email contact with that young person.
  • They are to only be used for conveying information such as meeting times places, etc.
  • No abbreviations and clear unambiguous language must be used in the messages to avoid misunderstandings.
  • If it becomes necessary for a youth leader to have a youth work email account then a separate account must be setup only with permission from the Youth Worker and Vicar who must be able to access it at any time. All group messages from such an account must have the Youth Worker cc’d on them.