Many people share, learn and communicate about sport using social media, apps, and the internet.
Many clubs and organisations use their own websites and/or Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other platforms to link with participants, sponsors and their communities. There are many benefits, including increasing levels of participation and developing stronger links with members, participants and supporters.
But there are also risks. These can range from the seemingly harmless sharing of a photo without full permission, to the most damaging, like cyberbullying, image-based abuse, online racism or other forms of discrimination.
Having negative experiences online can affect a child or young person’s enjoyment of their activity or sport. Organisations should make sure they put appropriate safeguards in place to protect children from potential risks while in their care or communicating with them online.
Other online safety risks for young people can include:
- posting personal information that can identify and locate a child offline
- potential for inappropriate relationships between adults in positions of trust and the young people they work with
- sexual grooming, luring, exploitation and abuse, or unwanted contact
- exposure to inappropriate content, including pornography, racist or hate material or violent behaviour
- glorifying activities such as drug taking or excessive drinking.
Cyberbullying, or online bullying, is a significant online issue for young people, and one which can appear in a sporting and recreational environment. Cyberbullying is the use of digital technology to threaten, menace, harass, and humiliate an individual or group. It can look like online racism, targeted threats, intimidation to opposition players, coaches and teams, defaming of referees, coaches, management, or unsubstantiated claims of drug-taking or favouritism.
If you know cyberbullying is occurring in your club or organisation or your child is a target of cyberbullying, you need to act promptly to help stop the abuse.
Netsafe offers advice and guidance in this area and provides online safety support, expertise and education to people in New Zealand.
See Netsafe for help: https://www.netsafe.org.nz/bullying-abuse-support/
Image-based abuse, or the non-consensual sharing of intimate images, is another harmful online activity which can affect clubs and their members. Netsafe also provides more information image-based abuse and what to do if you know it’s happening in your club or organisation: https://www.netsafe.org.nz/image-based-abuse/
Have clear policies on social and digital media use
Clubs and organisations should have clear policy and guidance on how it uses digital technology and social media, including the expectations of all its members and supporters. The policy should outline how a club or organisation will use, publish and store photos and video content of their members.
A policy also helps to manage risk, provide member protection and set clear procedures for breaches and complaints. Policy and guidance should be made available to members and participants. Having opportunities to discuss any issues or queries about social media and digital use with members is a good idea.
Creating a safer online environment
Follow these steps to help ensure a safe online environment for children and young people:
- Have an online safety policy and guidance and an acceptable use statement which includes the use of social media for staff and young people.
- Have specific procedures and specific codes of conduct for young people and staff to follow that outline what’s acceptable behaviour online and what’s not.
- Ensure that everyone involved – including coaches, volunteers, administrators, parents/caregivers and children – understand and complies with their responsibilities within these policies.
- Address any instances of misconduct online in accordance with your online safety and social media policy.
External links for more information
More child protection guidance
Adapted from playbytherules.net.au with permission.