Communicating safely online

Due to the current restrictions and recommendations around social distancing, technology has become an even more integral part of life. Although it can be a source of safety and support, it’s also important to highlight the online and virtual risks that victims face; and support them to safeguard themselves online.

There have been recent reports of a rise in hacking activity which seeks to disrupt online activities and spread harmful or abusive material. This is especially important as Churches are finding new online ways to connect with their congregations. You can:

  • Follow and remind staff and volunteers of your safe working practices advice and safeguarding policy.
  • Avoid engaging with your community over social media and always use an organisational email address.
  • Risk assess any online platforms for meetings especially those discussing confidential information.
  • Review your lone working policy to ensure that online communication guidance is provided to mitigate against the risks of unavoidable 1:1 contact.

Read or download the new guides from the URC about Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, written for those who have never used them before but are thinking about doing so to stay in touch with their church or community. Also available is guidance about the recording of podcasts, using Facebook Live, YouTube and Zoom.

Listen to the latest URC Sunday service, a radio style service with hymns, readings, prayers and a sermon, led by the Revd Nicola Furley-Smith. An order of service with responses and hymns can be found here on the Daily Devotions website.

Even at the best of times, it can be challenging for parents, carers and other adults to keep children safe when they are online. Although the lockdown restrictions may add to those difficulties, the core messages remain the same. We all need to know the risks and signs of inappropriate content and online abuse, and we all have a role to play in helping children and young people to understand the dangers of online grooming, exploitation and abuse. There are the settings that a parent can change on each of their child’s devices, in effect they control what, who and how much the child does online. The NSPCC runs a free advice line for parents with questions about keeping children safer online. It’s on 0808 8005002.

There are several resources to support victim survivors protect themselves:

  • Safelives Digital and Online Safety Resources
  • Refuge Tech Abuse Service
  • Chayn’s Guide on how to secure your devices