Safeguarding, Young People and Virtual Delivery: Creating Safer Online Spaces

More young people are now accessing educational opportunities, youth groups and sport and activity sessions online.

Safeguarding continues to be paramount when delivering events and activities virtually, however many organisations have not included online safety within their safeguarding policies and procedures.

In this piece we consider how organisations can adapt their work to ensure everyone can access virtual events and activities safely. Although this piece primarily discusses safeguarding and young people, many of the ideas reflect good practice when hosting virtual events for adults too.

Organisations often have strong safeguarding policies that take into account situations where they work with young people and adults at risk in person. However, the rapid move to online provision has meant that some organisations are yet to consider safeguarding in relation to virtual events and activities.

These are some questions you might want to consider before delivering a virtual event:

  • If you are delivering a workshop or event over a platform such as Zoom, who has access to the ‘link’ to access the session?
  • Is there a ‘lobby’/ ‘waiting room’ where you can control who accesses the call?
  • Can participants send you private messages (or send private messages to other participants) through the online platform?
  • What signs could you look out for/hear that could indicate a safeguarding concern when you are delivering sessions online?

How can you uphold safeguarding principles during virtual delivery?

  • Update your safeguarding policy to include digital delivery and ensure that people delivering the presentations and activities are aware how to implement safeguarding measures online.
  • Ensure that when you are delivering virtual events and activities, this is done so through an organisational account, never through your personal skype or zoom account etc.
  • Consider who is able to access the link and how you will manage people logging into the session, you need to check you have everyone you should have, but be mindful if anyone additional tries to join the call.
  • If possible, have a presenter or an additional supporter on the call with you to admit people to the lobby and/or to flag any issues.
  • Follow up if people leave the call. For example, email or call them after the session from your work account to ask them if everything is okay. This could indicate a sign that they are experiencing challenges.
  • Make sure you have closed private email boxes and other screens before joining the call and sharing your screen.
  • Set clear expectations for the session, as you would if you were delivering an activity in person. Explain the code of conduct at the start of each session so participants respect you and others.
  • If you are running a session with people under the age of 13, you should have permission from the participants’ parent or guardian that they can attend. This should include details as to whether their camera can be on or off. Over this age, ensure that participants have consented to have their camera on – do not make this compulsory.
  • Similarly, consent is needed ahead of the session for any recording that takes place.
  • If possible, turn off the private message function so participants cannot message each other. This reduces the potential for incidents of cyber bullying.
  • Provide your professional email and work contact details so that participants can get in touch with you after the session should they need to discuss anything.
  • Only provide your work contact details, or details to a shared team inbox. You must not disclose any personal social media accounts, email addresses or telephone numbers.

What should you do if you have any safeguarding concerns?

  • If you are worried about a participant who is attending a virtual event you are involved in, you should report this to your manager and then your safeguarding lead.
  • If you need to seek advice about a young person from outside of your organisation, you can contact the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk
  • If you are worried about an adult at risk, you can contact your Local Authority’s Safeguarding Adults Board.

Remember safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility. If you have a concern, it is important to share this through one of the channels above.

Where can you find out more?

  • The NSPCC has detailed information about cyberbullying and young people
  • The NSPCC has provided detailed information about online safety including an online safety policy template for organisations.
  • UK Youth have created a guide for practitioners delivering online youth work about safeguarding and digital provision.
  • The Ann Craft Trust have published guidance about safeguarding in virtual sporting sessions.
  • The Ann Craft Trust have produced guidance about staying safe online for adults and young people who have learning disabilities.

This blog focuses on safeguarding young people during virtual events and activities, however much of the guidance is relevant when creating safe spaces for adults online.

Please do get in touch if you want to know more or if you would like to discuss training opportunities for your organisation!