Social media policy considerations for youth serving organizations

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  • Direct youth participants and their parents into a public discussion page or group page instead of"friending" you as an individual. If you create a group page such as "Apollo StudentLeaders," then students, leaders and parents can converse about the topics at handwithout needing access to an individual's page. Group administrators cannot access theirmembers’ pages, so it provides a way to communicate while still respecting the privacy ofthe youth members.
  • No adult staff member or volunteer can "friend" a youth participant in a program. It putsthe youth in an awkward place if they receive a request from someone in a position ofpower when they would prefer to keep their online life private.
  • Do not use the "chat" feature or go into private discussion chartrooms with youth. Takebreaks between any messages to give the youth person their space to process. Youth may overshare in back and forth messages and have a hard time putting on the brakes. As always, it is up to the adult to set healthy boundaries and healthy tone. Youth use texting as primary mode of communication. Texting for specific details (the time of the meeting/clarifying what to pack) is fine. Texting emotional or social conversations shouldbe avoided.
  • Avoid using the Internet when angry or upset. If a young person has violated a rule or acted inappropriately, have a face-to-face discussion about the consequences. Parents should always be notified.
  • Decide ahead of time what the rules are for your staff and volunteers in approvingfriend requests, realizing that different social media platforms have different opt- in/optout options. Some examples may be:
    • Only approve friend requests when the young person is at least 18 years old andout of high school.
    • Only approve friend requests if you are already friends with the young person’sparents on social media and feel comfortable discussing online concerns with theirparents.
    • If young people choose to "follow" a one-way social networking option, be surethat your word and photo content are appropriate for youth to view. If yourcontent is not youth friendly, as the adult you are expected to create a boundaryand block youth accessfrom your account.
    • Do not engage with young people on applications that encourage immediatemessage responses or back-and-forth photo sharing.
  • Remind young that if you see images or words on their pages that lead you to believethey are being hurt, may hurt someone else, or may be hurt in the future, it is yourroleas a leaderto report those concerns. Do follow through if you see concerning behavior.
  • Above all – remember that you are setting an example for young people in everyinteraction they have with you in person and online. If you would like to keep youronline life private and free of youth examination, it is suggested to not approve friendrequests from minors.
  • If you do opt-in, keep any communication ministry-appropriate or mentor-appropriate.If communication or boundaries start to feel cloudy, print off any discussion so that youhave a record and then check in immediately with a supervisor to assist withaccountability and setting up new boundaries.