Communicating safely online

Since the pandemic, technology has become an even more integral part of daily life and in the ministry of the church. Although it can be a source of support, it’s also important to highlight the online risks that people face and help to 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 help by:

  • Following and reminding Workers and volunteers of your safe working practices and church safeguarding policy.
  • Avoid engaging with your community over social media unless you have consent to do so. Using church social media accounts (for the purposes of appropriate communication and notices) is recommended, always use an organisational email address and use online communication agreements with adults at risk and children.
  • Risk assess any use of online platforms for meetings especially those discussing confidential information or those which are open to adults at risk or children.
  • 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.

Even at the best of times, it can be challenging for parents, carers and other adults to keep children safe when they are online. 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 people to understand the dangers of online grooming, exploitation and abuse. There are the settings that a parent or caregiver can change on tech devices, to control what, who and how much access is given online. The NSPCC runs a free advice line for parents and caregivers with questions about keeping children safer online. It’s on 0808 8005002.

Useful links and resources following the Safe Against Scams:

How to setup devices safely:

Two factor authentication  www.turnon2fa.com

Privacy settings & controls www.internetmatters.org

Scams:

Test your knowledge: https://takefive-stopfraud.org.uk/

Help with online scams: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/scams/get-help-with-online-scams/

Age UK: www.ageuk.org.uk

From the Metropolitan Police Service  https://www.met.police.uk/  

  • The Little book of big scams
  • The Little book of Cyber scams
  • The Little book of Big scams (Business Edition)

 

  • What is Cyber Bullying? When people use digital services to abuse or harass others, we call it cyber bullying. This post will help you spot the signs of cyber bullying, while also offering tips on how to protect yourself from online bullies. Read more.
  • How to Stay Safe Online. A collection of general tips, including advice on online conduct and behaviour, and essential cyber security tips (such as setting a good password!) Read more. 
  • Safeguarding and Online Youth Work. This helpful guide includes information on using technology to deliver youth work provision and responding to safeguarding risks when working with young people online. Read more.
  • Guidance for Adults and Young People with Learning Disabilities. A selection of easy-read guides to staying safe online, with helpful images and clear and simple language. Read more.
  • Supporting People Who Have Been Abused Online. It’s vital that we take steps to prevent abuse from happening in the first place. But it’s just as important that we know how to respond to instances of abuse. This is a collection of resources to help parents, guardians, and others in positions of care support young people who have been abused online. Read more.
  • Creating Safer Online Spaces. A guide to setting and maintaining safeguarding standards when delivering certain services online, such as teaching or exercise classes. Read more.
  • Guidance for Sport and Activity Organisations when Delivering Activities Online. Clubs providing online activities need to be aware of the welfare and wellbeing of their participants when conducting activities online. Please note – this post was written in response to the first enforced government lockdown in 2020. But we feel the advice and guidance is still relevant. Read more.
  • Beware of Online Scams. Though this resource refers explicitly to the scams that appeared in the early days of lockdown, it’s still a good introduction to the sort of techniques online criminals use to exploit others. This will give you an idea of the sort of red flags you should look out for to determine whether something is authentic, or a scam. Read more. You can also explore Age UK’s guidance about how to protect yourself from online scams.
  • Photography Guidance. Is it illegal to take a picture of a child or young person under 18? Not necessarily. But there are still precautions you should take when taking and sharing photos of yourself and others. Read more.

More information on online safety and a model church policy is in the Good Practice Guide 5 – Safeguarding, specifically

Appendix C – Model church online safety policy

Appendix W – Safeguarding and Digital Communications.

 

Last updated 26 December 2022