Social Media Policy
As a youth worker, the question of how to appropriately use social networking sites and other electronic communication tools (email, text messages etc.) is one that repeatedly raises its head for conversation. There are many differing views.
Clearly, these are effective tools for reaching young people and as such we must look to use them. However, a lack of proper accountability and the potential for misunderstanding with "written" communication can leave youth workers and young people vulnerable.
With this in mind, and in the absence of clear guidelines on these subjects from prominent youth work organisations, I have decided to set out my own policy for the safe use of these methods of communication.
These are designed to safeguard both myself and the young people that I work with by allowing only "visible" communication, and clearly indicating what interaction is acceptable. This also removes the possibility of misunderstanding, and provides accountability as best as possible within the confines of these sites/devices.
I only have one Facebook profile, not a separate one for work and personal.
I firmly believe that ministry is a whole-life calling, and my desire is that there be nothing in my life that I would rather young people were not exposed to. The profile you see is me . work, home, everything.
I do accept friend requests from young people, and send similar requests to others.
As stated above, I believe in allowing young people to see my life. I also think it is important to communicate in contemporary ways.
I do NOT accept or send friend requests until AFTER I have met the young person in "real-life".
I use facebook as a way to communicate with people that I know, rather than as a way to make new friends. I believe this to be the safest way to use it.
Young people are welcome to write on my wall, "like" my status, comment on or "tag" photos etc.
These are communications that can be seen by anyone else on my friends list... my line-manager, my wife, other young people, parents and those to whom I am accountable.
I do occasionally write on young people's walls, "like" their status, comment on or "tag" photos etc.
Similar to the above, this is public and easily seen. I carefully consider any wall posts and comments before they are posted.
I do NOT send private messages, or respond to them.
This is a hidden communication, and therefore I do not use private messaging at all with young people. Any messages that are received are deleted without being read.
I do NOT "poke" or respond to them.
Again, this is a hidden communication. Any "pokes" received are ignored immediately.
I do NOT enter into pastoral conversation through Facebook.
I am happy to exchange information, jokes etc, or to arrange meetings. But I won't have any in-depth conversations.
I do NOT do the whole FarmVille, Mafia Wars, applications rubbish.
I have no clever reason, they're just annoying. If I wanted to plant vegetables, I'd do it in the garden. ;-)
I am on Twitter, and young people are welcome to follow me.
I use Twitter very little, not as much as facebook, and rarely "tweet". However, young people are welcome to "follow" me if they so desire.
I will follow any young people that have Twitter accounts.
I am interested in young people's views of life, and Twitter can, at times, provide a valuable insight.
I do NOT send or respond to direct messages.
These are hidden communications.
I only have one phone number.
My iPhone is my work phone, personal phone, mp3 player, diary and camera.
Young people are welcome to call, text or email me (within the confines set out below).
I believe in being available to young people in as many ways as possible.
I will call, text and email young people if necessary (within the confines set out below).
For some young people, their mobile phone or email is the best way to pass on information.
I do NOT enter into pastoral conversation by text message or email.
I am happy to exchange information or to arrange meetings by text or email, but I won't have any in-depth conversations. I will, however, occasionally use the phone for this, provided someone else can overhear the conversation.
I don't do ANY of the above on my day off!
My day off is precious. I do go on Facebook, I don't turn my phone off but I will ignore any work-related messages or calls until the next day. Please don't take this personally! It's not. I just need to keep my life balanced! If it's TRULY urgent, leave me a message and if I agree that it is, I'll call you back.
You may or may not agree with all that Ant has decided - that's fine. Ant originally wrote this article as his own personal policy, and so it is not intended as an instruction manual or even a complete document.
The most important thing as a youth or children's worker is that you are thinking about this issue. It would be a good discussion to have with your fellow leaders.
It is important not to engage in anything you are not happy with. The challenge though is not to just write social media and mobile phones off. To do so would be to disengage with a massive part of the lives young people lead, and you will miss opportunities to walk life beside them.
Ultimately of course we want young people to be informed about the potential dangers of these technologies and to make their own choices about how best to connect with them.
If you have any comments on this subject the Energize team would be interested to hear them: email firstname.lastname@example.org