Good Practice for Online Youth Work

Check out the advice and guidance that we have put together for young people and those who work with them to assist in creating safe online spaces.

There are many ways of promoting this information to young people and we would encourage that young people, youth leaders and youth workers are supported to discuss these tips and to use them to agree their own code of online conduct that could enable them to enjoy a safer online experience.

  • Nothing is private on the internet
  • Don’t share personal or revealing information i.e. passwords/phone number/address
  • Update your passwords regularly and use a password that is hard for others to guess
  • Don’t believe everyone is who they say they are online
  • Remember whatever goes online can be viewed forever = click once online forever
  • Know your rights when using the internet
  • You are responsible for what you do online
  • Use caution if you open emails from people you don’t know, do not open their attachments until you are sure it is safe
  • Keep your anti-virus software up to date
  • Know what sort of things can get you in trouble or are illegal online and avoid them
  • Ignore requests for meeting someone on your own
  • Don’t send someone a photo of yourself particularly if they ask for a revealing or undressed photo of you
  • Tell a trusted adult, professional or friend if you are concerned about anything
  • If you feel something is not right then it probably isn’t
  • Find out what the youth organisation’s Acceptable Usage Policy is so that you know how to behave online while at the youth service

Supervision

  • The online safety of young people at the youth service is your responsibility so you need to supervise their online activity in accordance with your organisation’s AUP.
  • Know what level of monitoring you can utilise and inform the young people and their parents/guardians how you are monitoring their usage.
  • It is not advisable to use personal social networking profiles to connect with the young people online or as a way of supervising their activity. Agree how this should be managed as a youth organisation.

Empowering

  • Involve young people in writing a code for the acceptable use of the internet.
  • Get to know how the internet works and explore its possibilities with the young people in accordance with your AUP.

Boundaries

  • The use of Social Networking Sites (SNS) and in particular personal profiles can breach the boundaries between a youth worker’s personal and professional life. Accepting young people in to a personal network can lead to various problems such as allegations of inappropriate behaviour or young people misunderstanding the nature of the working relationship with them.
  • It is advisable to create an organisation page that uses the name of the service rather than a personal profile. This is a good learning opportunity for the young people regarding safe boundaries they can create while online.
  • Young people are accessing the internet via hand held devices so agree with them when and how they use them while at the youth service. This needs to be agreed with their parents/guardians.

Use of organisational social networking

  • Ensure current practice is in line with the organisation’s latest AUP.
  • Include the use of SNS in your AUP ensuring that all personnel are informed and know what the rules are surrounding this.
  • Ensure your practice is in line with Data Protection Policy and Data Retention Policy.

Monitor

  • Agree a system for monitoring the organisation’s SNS. Monitor all live comments if the SNS allows them.
  • Set up a notification system within the organisation that sends alerts when certain inappropriate content is posted.

Report

  • Agree a system for reporting any concerns that may arise from using the internet in your youth organisation.
  • If there is a suspicion of any illegal or criminal activity being perpetrated by the use of the internet in your organisation this should be reported to the statutory authorities without delay and managed in line with your organisation’s policies and procedures.

Organisation Checklist

Have You?

Possible Actions

Have you an Acceptable Usage Policy (AUP) governing the use of the internet in your youth organisation?
  • Review the current  AUP to ensure it is up to date and covers the way the internet is being used in your youth organisation.
  • If you have no AUP in place then refer to the sample AUP included in this resource to commence the process.
  • Utilise the various sections of this resource to plan and implement the process for developing your AUP and ensure it is in line with the other policies in your organisation.
Have you training planned to ensure that all personnel can monitor internet use and respond when issues arise with young people?
  • Review training provided to-date to staff and volunteers.
  • Carry out a training needs analysis among staff and volunteers to identify the training that is required to support them to utilise the internet in the course of their work with young people.
  • Work with training providers to plan training to be delivered.
  • Review the competencies of staff and volunteers after the training is provided to ensure that training needs were met.
  • Plan further training to address any further gaps that may exist.
  • Monitor training needs particularly to keep up to date on the changing environment that is the internet.
  • Explore training needs with the young people to incorporate their needs to ensure they are informed and equipped to stay safe online. Plan any training that is required as a result.
Have you resources in place to inform staff, volunteers and young people on how to use the internet safely?
  • Create awareness posters and display them in the youth service premises particularly where there is internet access promoting good usage policy
  • Provide access to guidance resources such as booklets and websites that give advice for staying safe online e.g. webwise.ie
  • Support safe internet usage at home as well as at the youth service
Have you involved the relevant stakeholders when planning the use of the internet in your youth organisation?
  • Young people involved in developing a code for using the internet
  • Staff and volunteers consulted to identify how they use the internet in the course of their work. Utilise this information to shape the AUP and resources required to create safe internet practice and culture across the organisation.
  • Discuss the use of Social Network Sites with staff and volunteers and ensure that all risks are identified and reduced where possible.
  • Work with Parents/Guardians to inform them of the AUP and how it is implemented within the youth organisation. This may involve meetings and involving them in agreeing some elements of this that involve the use of personal hand held devices that the young people have.
  • Youth services will also have to make provision for the young peoples’ smart phones, games consoles and all their personal devices or “the internet in their pocket” which won’t be part of the youth centre’s network or filtering.
Have you installed appropriate software to protect and monitor the internet usage in your organisation?
  • Review current software such as fire walls, virus protection product and monitoring packages ensuring they are up to date and are not breached.
  • Seek advice on the best package for your organisation. Particular attention to be given to how you can include hand held devices under your software.

Your Policies

Do your policies include how to use the internet? “An Acceptable Usage Policy is a document which addresses all rights, privileges, responsibilities and sanctions associated with the Internet,” Webwise.ie.

Breaches of a policy

Breaches of an AUP could potentially lead to civil, disciplinary and criminal action being taken against the youth organisation or any of the young people. It is crucial that all stakeholders are aware of the offline consequences that online actions can have.

Your Technology

Each youth organisation has a duty to ensure that the young people are safe while attending their programmes or activities. The technology you use will help create a safe environment and reduce the risk of young people accessing inappropriate or harmful material.

Levels of internet access and supervision may vary according to the young person’s age and experience. It is advisable that youth organisations have up to date software that can manage the content that young people view while accessing the internet at the youth service.

There is no completely secure content filter product that will guarantee that only appropriate material will be seen. The first step to the process should be to assess what level of filtering you currently have. According to the National Centre for Technology in Educationthere are a number of levels of filtering to choose from depending on the needs of the organisation. The PDST provides very useful guidance for supporting the use of technology in education. Check out their resources from https://www.pdsttechnologyineducation.ie/en/.

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