Best Practice: Social Media and Electronic Communication with Young People

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Advice, guidance and recommendations for coaches, volunteers, officials, umpires and designated officers. For the purpose of this Best Practice note, the term ‘coach’ is used to apply to all adults working with young people (U18) in netball. For the purpose of this Best Practice note, electronic communication includes contact with young people via email, text messaging, social networking sites (eg Facebook, Twitter) and instant messaging systems (eg MSN).

Introduction

As technology develops, the internet and its range of services can be accessed through various devices including mobile phones, computers and game consoles.  Although the internet has many positive uses, it provides the key method for the distribution of indecent images of children.

Furthermore, social networking sites, chat rooms and instant messaging systems are increasingly been used by online predators to ‘sexually groom’ children and young people. In addition, electronic communication is being used more and more by young people as a means of bullying their peers.

All adults working with young people in netball are asked to adhere to the following best practice guidelines which form part of the England Netball Safeguarding and Protecting Young People in Netball Policy. England Netball will investigate any ‘coach’ who is not adhering to best practice in communication with young people.

General Good Practice

It is inappropriate for adult coaches to communicate on a one to one basis with players under the age of 18 years by:

  • text message
  • e-mail
  • instant messaging
  • or through social networking sites

All electronic communication by the above methods should include (where possible) a copy to a third party, e.g. copy to the relevant safeguarding officer and /or the parent. Coaches should also limit all electronic communication to netball related matters. It is advisable to always send a group message rather than single messages to one player.

For U16 players parental consent is required for communication between the adult and the young person. This guideline can form part of the club membership details given at the start of the season.

For U18 players, parents should be informed and aware of the communication between the coach and young person.

All coaches, staff, volunteers, parents and members should always behave responsibly and respectfully when online or texting. They should not post or discuss unfavourable comments about coaches, players, any helper or volunteer, parents or club/s. Mobile phones should be turned off during a netball session except in the case where a phone is used as a club contact number or for emergencies.

Text Messages

Text messages are NOT the preferred method of communication between adults and young people. However where they are used, they should be group (bundled) messages and should always be copied into the relevant safeguarding officer. In the event of an emergency, individual texts may be used but again must be copied into the safeguarding officer and / or parent.

Instant Messaging Services

MSN, Yahoo and other instant messaging systems should not be used by adults to communicate with young players under any circumstances.

Emails

Emails are a positive and simple method of communication between coaches and young players and groups are easy to set up. Group emails are preferred, although in the case of an email to one person, a copy must be sent to the relevant safeguarding officer.

Social Networking

Coaches should NOT have players under the age of 18 as their ‘friends’ on social networking sites when the primary reason for the relationship is netball and they have a position of trust in relation to that young person.

Should a young person in your club request to become a named friend on your social networking page or request that you become a named friend on their page you should decline if any of the below apply:

  • You are in a netball position of responsibility in respect of that child.
  • You hold a position of trust and responsibility in the netball club.
  • Your contact with the child is through a netball club and the parent/guardian of the child does not give their consent to such contact.

The social network site should never be used as a medium by which to abuse or criticise England Netball members or England Netball clubs and to do so would be in breach of the England Netball Codes of Conduct and therefore subject to disciplinary action.

Coaches are advised to consider carefully what they post as some comments can be seen by friends of friends. This also applies to comments left on other people’s pages and the sharing of photographs. Consider your position as a role model in this area. The publishing of a photograph or video footage on a social networking site is governed by the same requirements as any other media see the England Netball Photography Policy

Club Facebook (or other social networking site) page

Clubs using Facebook must only accept members of the club as their online ‘contacts’ on the Club Facebook (or other social networking site) page. This must be stated on the page and the page must be set up for that reason.

Where clubs operate a Facebook (or other social networking site) page links may be made from the young person’s page to the club page but additional personal links between the pages of adults and young people must not be created.

It is important that the sites privacy settings are set, ensuring that an outside person may not be able to make contact with a young person by first gaining access via the club’s social networking site. Coaches are reminded that ALL social networking websites are restricted to people aged 13 years and over, this restriction must be adhered to.

For tips on how to set up a Club Facebook page please refer to the England Netball safeguarding pages.

Guidance to coaches who have children that play in the club where they coach.

Many parents are becoming members of social networking sites that their children sign up to for security reasons. This enables them to view their child’s site and help ensure the safety of their own child. This will give the parent access via their child’s site to all children listed as friends of their child. It would not be appropriate for England Netball to prevent a parent who is also a coach in his/her child’s club from using this form of protection for their child’s online activities.

Therefore in such cases:

  • The coach can have players in the club on the site he / she is accessing providing the under 18 year old club members on the site are listed as friends of his / her child or the club facebook page.
  • The coach concerned does not have direct contact with those players through the social networking site.
  • The coach does not accept such players as friends on his / her home site.
  • The coach should inform the Club Safeguarding Officer of this arrangement.

Coaches/teachers/officials who are aged Under 18

England Netball recognises that social networking sites can be a useful tool for teachers, coaches and officials within netball clubs to share information with other teachers, coaches or officials. If, however, the teacher, coach or official is under the age of 18, while they may be a colleague; these requirements must be adhered to.

For young people aged 16 or 17 it is the view of England Netball that to restrict the ability to share professional information with them from other coaches, teachers or officials may be detrimental in their professional development.

Therefore in such cases if the parent of a young person in a position of responsibility aged 16/17 and the young person themselves requests to have contact with an adult club officer or coach for the purposes of sharing professional information relevant to their role:

  • The club should gain written consent of the parent/guardian and young person to have such contact naming the individual adult and social networking site concerned
  • The named adult must sign an agreement to keep the contact with the young person to the discussion of matters relevant to the young person’s professional role in the club
  • All such communications should be shared with an identified 3rd person (e.g. the young person’s parent/guardian or Club Safeguarding Officer)

If the young person or the adult is found to breach the above agreement action must be taken by the club to address the concern and/or the breach referred to England Netball or the statutory agencies if appropriate.

A note to Young Players:

Young members must be reminded to set their privacy settings and not accept requests either from people unknown to them or to other adults involved in netball. More information regarding internet safety is available on the youth pages of the England Netball website and on the England Netball BeSafe cards for young players.

Reporting concerns

In the event of a player showing a coach a text or instant message, image or email that is considered to be  inappropriate for a child to have, the coach must inform the appropriate safeguarding officer, either at club or England Netball national level. If a young person is concerned with anything they have seen on the internet they are advised to speak to their safeguarding officer.

The information in this England Netball guidance note is consistent with the following CPSU guidance.

1. CPSU note on text and email messaging:

www.nspcc.org.uk/Resources

2. Using Social Networking Services and Social Media: Promoting Safe and Responsible use.

www.nspcc.org.uk/Resources

The Child Protection in Sport Unit have produced a useful guidance note on text and email messaging

The information in this EN guidance note is consistent with the CPSU guidance. Also see CPSU guidance:

Using Social Networking Services and Social Media: Promoting Safe and Responsible use

Download the Complaints Leaflet for Parents & Young People

A guide to all Children, Young People and Parents on How to Raise Concerns or Complaints if you or your child is the victim of poor practice or abuse of any form.

England Netball aims to ensure that all children and young people within netball are treated with respect , valued and, at all times, "Safe" from all forms of abuse.

Lead Child Protection Officer: 07595 863 991
Send us a confidential e-mail:besafe@englandnetball.co.uk
Child Line: 0800 1111
NSPCC Help Line: 0808 800 5000