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Electronic Communication Guidance

There is growing concern being expressed about what is and what is not permissible in the area of communication between adults and children and young people in sport.

Understandably, with the rapid development of mobile phones, text messaging, email and other forms of electronic communication, these methods of communicating have become a feature of the sporting landscape and of the world of young people.

This provides guidance to all those involved in working with young people in sport and also provides guidance for children and young people.

There is evidence of the use of mobile phones and other electronic communication for grooming or other purposes by people in positions of trust in relation to children throughout sport. There have also been incidents of young athletes becoming very distressed as a result of bullying by people who have contacted them without parental knowledge on their mobiles.

Guidance for Clubs with regard to social media (including web-sites) and networking providers

Web-sites and social networking media can be a successful marketing tool for a club in attracting new membership. It is, however, important to give careful consideration to the use of social media and web-sites to balance the benefits of creativity, spontaneity and immediacy of the communication with the potential risks, including risks to children and vulnerable adults. You should plan appropriately and only develop the site/ social media communication when safeguarding issues have been adequately assessed and addressed to minimise these potential risks.

Web-sites

Clubs and other organisations should also be aware of their responsibilities under the Data Protection Act, particularly that people must given consent to the processing of their personal data on any web-site (and that any site that collects information from children must have stronger safeguards in place).

Social Media

Interactive social media technology has revolutionised the way that people connect and interact. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, instant messaging and video exchange sites are increasingly popular, and provide an opportunity for the sporting world to connect with children and young people. However, the use of social networking sites also introduces a range of potential safeguarding risks to children and young people, so it is important that safeguarding protocols and practices keep pace with the raft of communication methods young people use.

Should clubs/associations chose to use this medium to interact the attached briefing (based on advice from the CPSU) [click here] provides some guidance and good practice guidelines.

Guidance for Coaches

The primary responsibility of any coach must be the supervision and safety of children and young people that they coach and the provision of a structured, quality coaching experience. Anything that comprises the coach’s ability to maintain a safe environment and give their full attention to the supervision and coaching of children should be actively discouraged (including the use of mobile phones to make or receive calls during training or at competitive events).

Many facility providers also have clear guidance on restricting the use of mobile phones based on concerns that have been identified about potential abuse (see also Photography guidelines). Coaches using mobile phones may be breaching guidance and undermining the use of a facility to enforce their restrictions.

There are obviously situations where access to a mobile phone will make a positive contribution to the safety and welfare of children and young people, particularly when an emergency occurs.

Contacting children and young people by phone, text or email should never be undertaken without parental knowledge or consent. Ideally contact by coaches should be primarily on a face to face basis. Additional communication relating to coaching and other information should be directed to the child or young person’s parents or legal guardian.

However, coaches may contact as part of "disclosed list" (having received prior permission to disclose in group email) where they are disseminating information in relation to coaching or any form of competitions.

Clubs may also use disclosed lists for sending out club information via a designed or suitable trained adult (subject to suitable vetting and CRB Clearances). Group emails should also give individuals the opportunity to have their contact details removed from any list by including a statement such as "If you wish to be removed from this email list, please contact the administrator".

It is not good practice for coaches to text or email individual children or young people at any time on any matter, or take or make calls on mobile phones during coaching sessions.

Neither is it advisable to accept "invitations" to become a "friend" to young persons or vulnerable adults on any networking sites eg Facebook

Guidance for Children and Young People

Chat rooms and messaging can be fun, but remember, you never really know who you are talking to online. It could be someone trying to trick you, some kind of weirdo or someone really dangerous. Some tip to help keep you safe are:

More information can be found on web-sites, e.g.

Tops Tips for Parents

It is vital to protect children when they use the web. The CEOP offers 24-hour advice and information to parents and potential victims of online child abuse.

Set up in 2006, the CEOP provides a single point of contact for the public, law enforcers, and the communications industry to report the targeting of children online. The CEOP works with police forces around the world to protect children.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ) about protecting children online: CEOP

I have heard and read a lot about the dangers to children when they are online. But whenever I ask my child what they are doing, they start to talk about online sites and services that I have never heard of. How, as a parent, can I help my child stay safe online?

It is not easy. More and more children are online all the time and many of these so-called "social networking sites" are part of lives like never before. They use the internet to talk with their friends, share information, play games and a whole host of other fun things. But where children go it is a sad fact that sex offenders will follow. That is where the UK’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre or CEOP for short can help. They are the police organisation focused on dealing with this problem and have free services to help parents. Visit the Parents section of the CEOP website to find out more (or see items below).

My child spends a lot of time online and is 14 years old. How would I know if they were being groomed?

There are some common signs to watch out for which may suggest that they are doing something or have got into something online that might be a problem. Are they using the computer in an excessive way? Do they want to go online at the same time every day or are they being secretive about what they are doing? All of this of course could be perfectly innocent but don’t take the chance. Speak to them. Explain to them the dangers and see what you can do together. Thinkuknow.co.uk is a site specifically for young people delivered by the police specialising in this area and is a good place to start for general advice and guidance.

My child came home from school and told me about a Thinkuknow session they had attended. It covered online safety and sounded good. How can I find out more?

Thinkuknow is a free education programme that is being shown to children and young people across the country showing them how to stay safe online. It is delivered by the UK’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre who are part of the police and focused on cracking down on the dangers children face online from sex offenders. They have a website specifically for young people, called 'thinkuknow'. Visit the thinkuknow website and have a look at it with your child because it has lots of free and practical advice. As a parent, you may also want to have a look at CEOP’s free services for adults - for details, visit the CEOP website .

What can I do if I find that my child has been sent something inappropriate online? Should I just delete it or do I email it to my local police station?

It is difficult to give general advice on what to do if you receive anything inappropriate, as forwarding it on could be a criminal offence in itself. The simple solution is to speak to your local police and ask them for advice, or speak to the UK’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre there is a reporting button on the CEOP website where you can talk to them direct, make a report or get specific advice.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for Parents from CEOP web-site

Click here to access a section on frequently asked questions by parents regarding children’s on-line or mobile media. Questions and answers cover:

  • Grooming of children (including on-line grooming)
  • Mobile phones, advantages, risks and how to reduce them
  • Gaming over the internet and gambling addiction how to reduce the risks
  • Social networking: Blogs, Forums, Apps: risks, case study, advice, cyberbullying
  • Chat and Instant Messaging: Buddy lists, chat rooms, avatars, minimising risks
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