Online safety when delivering digital services to children, young people and adults at risk

Article date
3 April 2020
Primary interest
Voluntary sector

This guide was updated on 16 April: added guidance to avoid ‘Zoom Bombing’ to help you keep your meetings free from uninvited guests.

With many of us trying to work creatively with modern technology and social media  to keep in touch with many thousands of children, young people and adults at risk during the crisis, and to provide online versions of our services, perhaps for the first time, it is important to ensure that this is done safely and that all staff, volunteers and service users know what is to be expected.

In particular, when working with children, young people or at risk groups, via social media or other technology during this time, your organisation should risk assess this new way of working and prepare a code of conduct on how to do this safely. This can then be shared with all volunteers and staff and added to your safeguarding procedure. Things to think about are:

  • Put together a clear remit for the sessions, which is approved by the organisation, and ensure your team know how and when you are delivering sessions.
  • Consider whether the sessions will be active or passive, and the associated risks. I.e. are you using Youtube pre-recorded sessions, live streaming, Zoom or other video-conferencing technology. Tips for using Zoom safely:
    • Add a meeting password
    • Screen sharing to “host only”
    • Disable file transfer
    • Disable “Join before host”
    • Disable “Allow removed participants to rejoin”
    • Take a look at this really helpful guidance to avoid ‘Zoom Bombing’ this is where uninvited guests attend your zoom meeting and disrupt the meeting, for example by sharing illicit images or other illegal acts. This guide helps you to place the equivalent of ‘Bouncers’ at the door of your digital meeting.
  • The ages or vulnerabilities of the children and young people or at risk groups and how these will affect how you keep them safe.
  • The size of the group/one-to-one sessions and the impact on safe delivery.
  • If working with individual children, young people or ‘adults at risk’, it is good practice to involve a colleague with all interactions.
  • If it is vital to work one-to-one online, check there is a responsible adult, who knows what you are doing, present and nearby in the home.
  • Ensure there is adequate security for the technology you will be using.
  • Where the videos will be taking place, avoid bedrooms.
  • Be clear about expected behaviour of both the students and the staff/volunteers running the sessions.
  • Record time of the sessions and attendance.
  • Retain records of ‘chatroom’ activity, where hosted by you, and store securely.
  • Remember data protection still applies, so be clear on what is recorded, where it’s kept, how this is secure, and for how long will it be retained, data subjects know what is being recorded and why, and how they (or parents) can make subject access requests.
  • Remind both staff and students that safeguarding applies as per usual, and re-train staff as necessary bearing in mind any changes as a result of using online methods. Remind students who they can contact for help and support.
  • Be clear about confidentiality and how you will only share information if you are concerned about someone’s welfare
  • Only use your organisation’s website, social media platform and your professional email account. Don’t share personal information.

Once you have considered the above, you can put this into a written code of behaviour that you can share with your staff, volunteers and service users. You should also re-train any staff and volunteers on how to implement this and to answer any questions they may have.

Further support and information