Digital and online social media platforms are increasing the ‘go to’ way to communicate and engage with service users. Although there is a persistent growth of using mobile smart phones and tablets to carry out our daily work this extends to the beyond traditional  engagement in the form of telephone calls, letters or emails.

Social media platforms are being used for different things such as; fundraising, sharing positive stories, news items, images, events, global reach, etc. No matter what you use these platforms for, you must be consider the digital foot print of your organisation, your staff and volunteers, service users and those of the general public. Many organisations I have come across either have a short section about digital working written in to their safeguarding policy and do not have a standalone digital policy (best practice) that is a working document alongside their safeguarding policy.

It is also good practice to cross reference digital safeguarding with your data security, information sharing protocols, privacy policy, data protection policy (GDPR), privacy policy and acceptable use of electronic equipment. 

In today’s world of emerging technologies it is a ‘must’ to manage reputational risk and risk of harm for others that you digitally engage with. Managing your organisation’s social media channels is part of the code of conduct and safe behaviour online that as must adhered to. We do not know what the future holds and we have to think outside the box of and start digital future proofing. What I mean by this is not just how or what the CEO  posts on twitter but leading your teams in perhaps being politically neutral or how the boundaries of personal and professional digital profiles can, at times, become blurred. There are so many positive ways for using social media sites and emerging media to forge relationships and promote your brand. However if it is not managed and monitored carefully it can leave a trail of destructive consequences and have financial consequences to relationship or business.

In terms of a Digital safeguarding Policy, consider the following:

    • Be clear on which social media platform your organisation is using and why.
    • Making sure you have a clear strategy for the use of social media and networked groups. Including which platforms are for acceptable use for your organisation. Do these concur with organisation values?
    • Have you updated your policy against the latest legislation and guidance such as Prevent (Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015) and Engaging in Sexual Communication with a child (Serious Crimes Act 2017)
    • Are you clear and prescriptive about the use of electronic devices i.e. are your staff or volunteers using their personal mobiles for work purposes?
    • Do you have clear procedures and standards of the use of images, storage and disposal of images?
    • Is consent for use of images written or verbal? Consent should be written so there is a clear evidence trail. Do you consider scenarios of ‘do no harm’ when it comes to consent and posting of images?
    • Do you offer information on for you staff, volunteers and service users on keeping them safe on line?
    • Is it clear who a staff member would report concerns to if they came across a safeguarding incident or criminal offence on line?
    • Are your staff confident in operating digitally?
    • How are passwords created, stored and changed? Do you use two-factor authentication?
    • Have you consider how your organisation uses face book and what’s apps groups? Are they closed groups? Are they moderated? Do you have a moderator for online activity?

Digital safeguarding procedures should include details of consent, protection of user’s privacy and data, responsible use of technology/ devices and content placement, trustworthy content and transparent user journeys, social media and online conduct and safer online practices.

Organisations are directly responsible for their own digital safeguarding and need to ensure they have the appropriate level of security protection procedures in place in order to safeguard their systems, staff and service users. This also includes a continuous monitoring, auditing, escalation and moderation procedures as part of being ‘safeguarding aware’ and a security conscious organisation. Criminal or safeguarding incidents should be reported to the police or other relevant authorities. Digital safeguarding should form part of regular training plans for staff to be safer online.