Diocese of Chichester Safeguarding

Best Practice with social media and mobile communications

Sensible precautions should be taken in the use of social media within a Church context. In many ways, these precautions are simply online versions of safe practice in the offline world:

  • Avoid ‘lone working’ in the online world: Practically, this means avoiding one-to-one online chat (e.g. direct messaging) between adults and young people.
  • Maintain appropriate boundaries in the online world: Just as in the offline world, it is important to keep a distinction between our private lives and our work within church, and to pay particular attention to the dynamics of power and influence that can occur.
  • Do not use personal social media accounts to contact children: The simplest way to observe the above two precautions is to avoid having leaders and young people as ‘friends’ on social media (e.g. Facebook). It is far preferable to have an official account for the group in question (such as ‘St Andrew’s Anywhere Youth Group’), and to ask young people to ‘like’ that page. Any news about group events or anything else can be posted on that page. More than one leader should have access to this page, providing for accountability and transparency. Conversations between leaders and young people should happen in the public section of these pages (such as the ‘wall’ or in comments under posts) where everyone can see them, rather than via direct messages.
  • Behave in the online world as you would offline: Simply put, if you would not say it offline, do not say it online. This includes posting links to offensive or otherwise inappropriate content, making comments about someone’s appearance that could be interpreted as either sexual of offensive, or ‘liking’ inappropriate content on social media.
  • Treat online ‘consent’ the same as offline ‘consent’: You will need the consent of the individual and/or their parents to use and store photographs, to retain any information relating to them online, and so on. (See the next Section for further guidance regarding the use of images). It is a good idea to make their parents aware of the social media that your church uses and ensure that you have their consent to their child’s usage (depending on the age of the child – older children can consent in their own right).