We hope that you and your families are staying safe and that you are managing through the considerable challenge of these unprecedented times.
As a team, we are working from home to support you in continuing to make your sport safe and enjoyable for children. We continue to be available for any support or advice around all areas of child wellbeing and protection in sport and you can get in touch as normal to speak to one of the team.
Through this incredibly difficult time, our Parentline service also continues to offer support for families – through webchat and online advice at children1st.org.uk/parentline, and with free one to one calls on 08000 28 22 33. Please do share the service with families you are speaking to, to let them know they can get support to cope with all the challenges that families face coping through coronavirus. Supporting children and young people to continue to enjoy sport and train, while observing the coronavirus social distancing measures, is important to keep them connected to the activities they enjoy, the relationships they have with their teammates and coaches and for their physical and emotional health.
Digital apps and social media
The following includes some important information for Governing Bodies and clubs to consider, in order to keep children safe while adjusting to the new reality of the situation we are in. Digital apps and social media Some Governing Bodies and clubs will be setting up apps or using other digital means of communication to facilitate ongoing training and for children and young people to stay in touch with each other. These can be a fantastic resource, but they do also bring with them an element of risk and it is important that parents/carers and sports organisations continue to demonstrate vigilance to safeguard children and young people. Areas Governing Bodies and clubs should be mindful of:
• Always refer to the Social Media Policy of your governing body or club.
• Be mindful of the age of young athletes and social media access. Children under the age of 13 should not be accessing certain platforms (a full list is detailed below).
• Written permission from parents/carers should be sought before communicating by social media with children and young people who are under 16. Parents/carers of children and young people who are over 16 should be informed that your organisation will be communicating with their child in this way.
• If you are an adult, do not add children and young people to your personal social media pages. If a child or young person adds you, you should decline and direct them to your sport-specific pages.
• All concerns about the inappropriate use of social media should be managed in line with your organisation’s Responding to Concerns about a Child Procedure.
Existing social media policies should still be followed but may need to be adapted to support online coaching. The risk to children and young people has the potential to increase online and therefore a risk assessment should be conducted. The following additional safeguards are good practice and should be considered:
• Parental consent should be sought, as noted above, prior to on-line coaching commencing. In addition, conversations should take place amongst all parties involved to discuss expectations around behaviour and boundaries. This includes parents, children and young people, coaches and any others involved in the activity.
• The parents’ email address or phone number should be used for any communications regarding the on-line coaching schedule. There should be no direct communication between the child and coach outside of this.
• In the same way that coaches should avoid delivering to children and young people away from others at clubs or training grounds this principle should also apply on-line. Where it is feasible, more than one coach should deliver sessions. Settings to allow coaches and children and young people to be on screen at the same time should be used.
• Where ever feasible children and young people should participate in their coaching session in an open environment where supervision by parents/carers is possible.
• Where age-appropriate parents should be present during sessions.
• Children and young people should participate in sessions in suitable clothing. Swimwear, leotards etc. should be avoided.
• Be mindful that instances of bullying can still take place online and should be dealt with through the anti-bullying policies in place within your Governing Body or Club.
• It is important to remind coaches that they continue to have a duty of care to children and young people to whom they are providing on-line coaching sessions. They are entering people’s homes virtually which means that may potentially witness behaviour which places a child or young person at risk of harm. In this situation, coaches should follow responding to concerns procedures as normal.
• It is important that everyone, including parents/carers and children, understand what to do if they have a concern and who to speak to. Raising awareness about how to go about this might include communications from the club and Governing Body or the Child Wellbeing and Protection Officer dialling into on-line coaching sessions on occasion.
• If a concern is raised to the club or governing body that a child or young person is being harmed, all normal procedures should be followed in line with Governing Body or Club policy. If a child is at immediate risk of harm, statutory agencies should be immediately alerted.
We hope this information is helpful and our team continue to be available if there are any questions around this or any other child wellbeing and protection issue in sport.
Stay safe and have fun.
With best wishes, Safeguarding in Sport, Children 1st