Before you begin, some safeguarding pointers
Many of the principles for safeguarding and good practice that underpin face to face meeting remain the same in virtual spaces. For instance:
- Ensure there are at least two leaders, who have been recruited using the Safer Recruitment processes (references and DBS checks) in each virtual meeting (and make sure the leaders ‘arrive’ before the group does).
- You will need parental consent to include their child in any virtual meeting space and, for those under 16, the parents/carers will need to be the Zoom account holders and the link for the meeting should be sent to them. We also recommend that parents/guardians are asked to supervise* the Zoom call – the processes outlined here, if correctly followed, will include this.
- If a young person says something that causes concern and seems like it could lead to a safeguarding disclosure, then tell them you would like to talk to them about that more later – away from the wider group. Encourage them to stay online after the main meeting and ask them to tell you more. Again, you need to make sure there are two leaders present for the conversation – perhaps one asking questions and the other taking comprehensive notes. Follow safeguarding procedure as you would at any other time and contact your District Safeguarding Officer and, if appropriate and safe, the parents and carers as soon as you can.
- Consider inclusivity and accessibility – how can you make sure all your group is able to fully participate? For instance, you may want to consider: Does everyone have access to a device that will enable them to take part? Do any of your young people have additional needs that might prevent them from taking part fully? Does the time of the meeting align with the rhythms of the families you work with?
- Do not record the meeting. Most video conferencing software allows for the session host to record the goings on, but this would require separate permission for data capture and there are additional issues around storage, GDPR etc.
- In the settings for your Zoom meeting you should disable the one-to-one anonymous chat function so that participants cannot send private messages that are not seen by the wider group. You may also want to consider disabling screen share and only allowing this if needed for a particular activity.
- Use your knowledge of the young people you work with to set safe boundaries for the Zoom chat that you feel are appropriate. For instance, for some young people it may be perfectly appropriate for them to participate in the virtual meeting from their bedroom (perhaps with the door left open). However, if you have young people who have a history of struggling to set appropriate boundaries in their relationships with adults, it might be a good idea to say, as part of your ground rules for the whole group (do not single a specific young person out), that their participation in the Zoom chat should take place from a public part of the house, not their bedroom.
Zoom collects information about its users and has its own privacy terms and conditions to which members must adhere. Please review Zoom’s privacy terms and conditions carefully before registering, and ask parents/carers to do so also.
* By supervision we mean: The parent/carer holds the responsibility to log in to the Zoom meeting and agrees to not share the log in details. The parent/guardian is also responsible for logging out of the Zoom call at the end of a session and checking that privacy settings haven’t been changed and their passwords are not saved. The parent/carer is to manage the Zoom account and to ensure that they are at home while the child or young person is attending the session. Where possible the child/young person should be in a communal space or in a room with the doors left open when accessing the session via their laptop, computer or other device.
Zoom’s advice around under 16s using the platform is: “Children under 16 cannot create a Zoom account. A parent or guardian may, however, permit the child to use that parent or guardian’s account with their supervision.”
IMPORTANT: Due to the increase in 'Zoombombing' it is vitally important that you only share the meeting invite link with the parents/young people in your group - and you must stress to them the importance of not sharing the link beyond the group. Read more here.
You may want to download this document to help you write a risk assessment during the COVID-19 pandemic (shared, with thanks, by Rev Susan McIvor who is the Safeguarding Officer for the Nottingham & Derby District of the Methodist Church).