Taking Scouts online
Keep young people safe even when they’re at home
Although we’ve had to stop our face-to-face meetings during the Coronavirus pandemic, you can still stay connected with your groups online – trying new activities, learning new skills and working towards badges and awards.
Keeping everyone safe is the number one concern for all of us at the Scouts. That’s why we all need to continue to follow the Code of Behaviour set out in the Yellow Card when connecting with young people online.
Remember: A young person should never be in a one-to-one situation with an adult, whether it’s for discussions or activities.
As always, if a volunteer has any concerns about a young person’s welfare (including their online experiences), they must follow the reporting process set out in the Yellow Card.
Examples: SMS text, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Chat Rooms/apps
Many Scout Groups already use some form of instant messaging so that parents, leaders and young people can keep in touch.
You need parental permission to use this form of messaging and make sure that the platform you use is age appropriate and within the age restrictions put in place by the platform. If young people are below the minimum age of the platform, you need to communicate via the parents. A minimum of two leaders must monitor the group to ensure there’s no bullying or inappropriate behaviour.
You must make sure that no young people message or communicate with any adult directly on a one-to-one basis. If this does happen, please do not respond to the one-to-one message, rather contact the parents and ask them to speak to their young person to explain why it’s not appropriate. If it happens again, report this to safeguarding so we can speak to parents to make sure they’re monitoring their child’s usage online.
WhatsApp is a popular platform that uses your mobile phone number to communicate within a group. You should only use WhatsApp to communicate with parents (with their permission). If you are communicating with young people directly you should not use WhatsApp. Leaders should not have access to young persons’ mobile numbers.
Live Video Calls
Examples: WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom, FaceTime (Apple devices only)
There are many video conferencing platforms available and these are great tools to deliver Scouts digitally. These platforms allow leaders, parents and young people to all be online at once so they can see and talk to one another.
Most of these platforms have a minimum age requirement. Check the terms and conditions of services to make sure they’re suitable. If the young people in your group are under the age limit of the tool you want to use, then their parents must set up the required accounts and remain nearby throughout the meeting.
When using live video calling, two adults must be present at all times and both must remain on the video call until all young people have logged off. This ensures no young person is left alone with an adult online. Ideally both adults should be Scout volunteers, but you can use a parent rota to support as you might normally do.
If you’re calling from home and there are other people around, make sure those people are dressed appropriately and know how to behave when you’re talking to young people. It might be best to ask them to stay out of the room that you’re making the call from. Make sure your background space is child-friendly, ensuring nothing inappropriate is on display. You shouldn’t be drinking alcohol or have alcohol in the video.
Leaders should outline the behaviour expected on the video call at the outset.
For Beavers and Cubs, a parent should be present in the room.
Uploading Photos and Videos
Examples: WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube, Chat Rooms/apps
Many platforms allow users to upload and share videos and photos. This is a great way for young people to share what they’re doing at home with the wider group. Leaders can also share videos and photos with the group.
Make parents aware that young people can upload videos/photos and make sure young people have a parent’s permission before uploading content.
Leaders may wish to upload videos/photos that young people can watch at home with their families. Make sure your background space is child-friendly, ensuring nothing inappropriate is on display. Also, make sure that no personal details are displayed, including information that may identify your home address.
Be sure to triple check the video/photo before uploading to make sure it is the correct video or photo. It’s easy to make mistakes!
What platform to use?
There are many different platforms you can use to communicate with young people and families online. They’re all slightly different with different features, and most importantly, different levels of security and privacy.
- First and foremost, share your ideas for carrying on with Scouts on a digital platform with parents. Ask what platforms they would prefer to use. Clearly set out your expectations; ie not everyone needs to join in at every session, but when people are joining in you expect the same behaviour online as you would at your face-to-face meeting. Use email to communicate activities that are being shared online. This ensures transparency and parental engagement. It also promotes the hard work of the volunteers.
- Make sure all parents are aware of what the activity is, what platform it will be presented on, and when. Give parents enough time to allow them to set up new accounts if they need to.
- Remind parents to keep an overview of what their young people are doing online, so they can ensure they are acting responsibly. Make sure parents know that you’ll still be following the Yellow Card guidelines and why you’re doing this.
- Remind parents to check their young person’s devices regularly, including checking search history to make sure young people are staying safe.
- Leaders need to ensure that there are always two adults present in any live video/chat and that both stay on the platform until all young people log off. This ensures no young people are left alone with an adult online.
- Read up on the platforms features and make the most of any features that restrict access to only those you invite.
There must be at least two adults present at all times during any online activity. Ideally both adults should be Scout volunteers, but you can use a parent rota to support as you might normally do. Young people must never be left in a one-to-one situation with an adult. This protects us all and also ensures that young people understand that even in these difficult times, the Scouts take safeguarding seriously.
NSPCC – more support around online safety or bullying
Net Aware – safety tips for social media and games