Most people consider the internet to be an asset. It is an excellent source of information and a great means of communication. However, for young people it has become much more than just a communication tool – it has become a way of life. Social networking sites are now the preferred starting point on the internet for many teens and adults. This accessible means of communication has become popular and common, but the possibility of harm still exists as it potentially provides predators with unsupervised access to children and youth.
Many YMCAs have addressed ways to monitor children’s usage of the web – how to grant access to its beneficial aspects without exposure to its dangers. However, how people use the internet has been changed by the social media phenomenon. Many YMCAs may need to change or create new internet policies for children and staff in order to continue providing appropriate guidance and protection.
Social networks, such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. allow people to connect with friends, family, coworkers, and even strangers. Permitting a YMCA staff person to be friends with a child on Facebook allows that staff member unregulated access to the child. The staff person may send private messages to the child that no one else can read, a potential for abuse that should not be condoned.
To prevent this danger it is wise to establish and enforce a policy that disallows YMCA staff from being friends on Facebook, or any other social network, with children whom they meet at the YMCA.
In the past few years blogging has dramatically grown in popularity. Most young people read blogs or even write their own. You should encourage your staff to write about the YMCA and what it is like to work there. This is an excellent marketing technique that will help communicate the Y story. However, a potential danger also exists. You do not want your staff to write anything negative about the YMCA on their own blog or in a comment on another blog.
To prevent this possibility encourage staff who write their own blogs to include a statement on the front page similar to the one below.
Unless otherwise noted, the views expressed are mine alone and not those of my employer.
The widespread use of social media and the ever- improving technology allows anyone to instantly upload pictures, videos, or text to the internet. Your members or staff may be uploading content that you do not want to promote. This could be anything from a video of unsupervised children wrestling at camp to pictures of your lifeguards slouched and inattentive.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to prevent this exposure. If anything uploaded is inappropriate, disrespectful, uncouth, or vulgar, you may ask the website to remove the content. However, YouTube and others are generally reluctant to remove uploaded video or pictures.
Although this vulnerability may not be removed, it can be controlled. The YMCA may create profiles on any social media sites. With them you can proactively search the sites for and report any negative content about the YMCA.
Every YMCA should have a current social media policy. It should be reviewed at least annually to address the rapidly changing uses of the internet. An example of such a policy is available on our website in editable format – please feel free to use or edit it to meet your needs.
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 YMCA risk management issues.