Guidance on safeguarding whilst using videoconferencing platforms for ministry
In what are unprecedented times, Covid-19 has presented many challenges to individuals and organisations. Whilst having to adjust to the situation, it is important that we continue to follow safeguarding procedures to ensure the safety and protection of all, but in particular those who are vulnerable or at risk. Everyone in the Church has a responsibility to safeguard and promote the well-being of those who worship in our Church or who join us for any activity facilitated by Church members.
Online platforms and new technologies offer tremendous opportunities to reach, communicate, evangelise and engage with those involved in the Catholic Church. The use of technology and social media platforms has the potential to transform the way in which we can communicate and continue with some forms of ministry at this difficult time. Keeping everyone safe whilst using these platforms is essential, and as it is a new experience for many, it is important to understand how to implement some simple steps that can contribute towards keeping people safe online.
General considerations when using online platforms for ministry
- It is recommended that research is undertaken in relation to safety and security concerns for the platform you choose, to enable you to consider any issues and possible alternatives;
- Be aware that different platforms have different restrictions in relation to age so ensure you take account of age restrictions within the terms and conditions of use of your chosen platform;
- Once the platform is selected, it is advisable to set up a custom account in the name of that group, parish or body, accessible to more than one person who can act as ‘administrator’, using a strong password.
- Ensure that the administrator/host is aware of the settings that will maximise security and that they are confident and competent in using them.
- Communication should always be via an organisational account and organisational equipment. A generic email address or telephone number associated with the group, accessible to more than one person who can act as administrator, maintains appropriate boundaries. The benefits of this are that:
- communications can be easily reviewed by other leaders or helpers in the event of enquiries;
- the need for action on any matter can be easily shared and delegated;
- communications can be picked up in the event of sickness or other absence;
- all correspondence and data is stored securely in one place.
- It is not appropriate to use personal social media accounts, phone numbers or email addresses to contact participants, without the consent of those legally able to give it;
- Permission for communicating directly with children and young people aged under 16 years via social media must be sought from parents;
- For young people aged 16-18 years and adults who lack capacity to consent, consent must be given by a person who has the legal authority e.g. lasting power of attorney for health and welfare, to make the decision on the person’s behalf;
- Communication via social media should not be for any other reason other than the specific ministry for which consent was obtained;
- For matters that are sensitive or private, online communication should be avoided due to the possibility of misunderstanding and, if used, two adults should be present and where appropriate, parents or carers should be included where to do so would not cause harm to the individual concerned;
- Information should be circulated to parents and carers about the platform being used, including how to download the application and any key issues they need to be aware of.
- Clear information should be provided to parents and carers about the purpose of any online activity, the range of people participating e.g. children, adults, mixed, and the names and contact details of those responsible for the activity.
- Parents and carers should be encouraged to ensure that participation takes place in a place visible to others within the household and not within bedrooms or other closed spaces.
- There should be two adult facilitators during online ministry to children, adults at risk or who are otherwise vulnerable, one of whom must be familiar with safeguarding policies and procedures.
- If material is going to be used for a different purpose than the original intention, the new purpose must be explained and consent obtained;
For more information about safer electronic communication see https://www.csas.uk.net/procedures-manual/#cat-4
The UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) is a voluntary organisation chaired by Ministers from the Department for Education and the Home Office. UKCCIS brings together over 180 organisations and individuals from government, industry, law enforcement, academia, charities and parenting groups. Some of the organisations UKCCIS works with include: Cisco, Apple, Sony, Research in Motion, the four largest internet service providers, Facebook and Microsoft.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) has numerous resources for parents and carers and children using the internet; there are several video tutorials on the THINKUKNOW site which is part of CEOP.
Stop It Now! reaches out to adults concerned about their own behaviour towards children, or that of someone they know, as well as professionals, survivors and protective adults. Stop It Now! runs a Freephone confidential helpline.
‘Parents Protect‘ is a site to help parents, carers and other protective adults with information and advice to help them prevent child sexual abuse.
Catholic Youth Work has detailed guidelines on the use of social networking sites.
Internet Matters gives advice on parental controls and is a great way of preventing children accessing unsuitable content online.
Childnet International is a multi-lingual resource site which has a guide on protecting your privacy on ‘Facebook’.
The NSPCC has useful resources for keeping children safe online including sections on Cyberbullying and Sexting. Reporting and Monitoring.
Useful information about privacy settings for online platforms
Zoom – https://zoom.us/securityhttp://www.zoom.us
Microsoft Teams – https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/microsoft-365/microsoft-teams/security
Skype – https://support.skype.com/en/skype/all/privacy-security/privacy-settings/http://www.skype.com