Electronic Communication Policy

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Protecting the children you serve is an ever-changing and constant task. Today’s kids love to communicate with one another. Texting and twittering, emailing and blogging – their appetite for social networking seems unquenchable. The focus on knowing and being known may foster community but it also has its dangers. The nearly unlimited internet access given to their users by smart phones also gives quick and easy access for those who wish to do them harm because such activity is unseen and unmonitored by parents or JCC staff.

A major component of the abuse prevention code of conduct used by most JCCs is no communication is allowed outside of J activities. Current technology has made monitoring and enforcement of that standard extremely challenging, yet it must be done to protect both your staff and the children in your programs. Well-defined screening and hiring protocols combined with detailed staff training and thorough parental education and feedback practices will work together to meet the goal of protecting your children.

Implementing an Electronic Communication Policy can be an important means of keeping children safe. It should be an adjunct to, not a replacement for, your abuse prevention code. Designed to guide and protect both your staff and the youth they serve, it should be shared with parents and participants so that all expectations and controls are fully understood.

Your policy should include at least the following:

  • Telephones / cell phones – Staff is prohibited from initiating or receiving personal phone calls with youth who are in or whom they have met through JCC programming. A call is considered personal if it does not involve both a JCC phone and JCC-specific subject matter. Staff members are required to report incoming calls to their supervisor immediately.
  • Text messages – Regardless of the instrument of origin or receipt, text messaging with youth (as defined above) is strictly forbidden to staff. Policy requires immediate notification of supervisor if a text message is received from such a party.
  • Email / instant messaging – Staff may not share any personal email address or instant message name or nickname with youth. Staff may neither initiate nor respond to email or instant message communication from youth while using any personal (i.e., non-JCC) connection to the internet.
  • Social networking websites – Any communication with youth using this medium (e.g., Facebook, Bebo, MySpace, PerfSpot, NetLog, Twitter, etc.) must use JCC sponsored or approved sites – no personal blog or social networking website may be used. Also,
    • any staff profile or blog must be private and inaccessible to youth; the site should not have pictures of or make references to specific youth
    • staff with profiles on social networking sites may neither request to be friends with nor accept as a friend a youth as described in the policy.
  • Appropriate protocols - All communication with youth must be from JCC email accounts and or phones. Email communication from youth must be forwarded to supervisory staff and the youth’s parents or guardians must be notified. All communication with youth must be documented immediately with the staff member’s supervisor.

Teen programming requires communicating with teens and being effective necessitates use of their preferred methods. Require your teen staff to use only JCC phones or computers for such communication and regularly monitor the contact records to identify excessive texting to any individual numbers. If this type of behavior is identified, determine the appropriateness of the contact. Such communication may have been suitable but excessive contact with a particular child is a pattern common to abusers that must be investigated.

Working with and protecting youth presents our society with new challenges. Ensure that your JCC is doing all it can to protect the youth it serves. Develop a policy, train and educate your staff, then share it with the teens and their parents. Only by working together can you protect the children in your programs and community.

Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at www.redwoodsgroup.com to learn more about JCC risk management issues.

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