We live in a digital generation and the constant evolution of technology can present unique adult-to-youth and youth-to-youth abuse risks. Being able to recognize the dangers surrounding electronic communication can help your organization prevent and respond to abuse stemming from social media.
- Offenders need access, privacy, and control to abuse. Social media can provide both access and privacy through (often) anonymous apps.
- Some offenders use social media to groom youth online before meeting them in person.
- Situational abuse can also occur through social media. Offenders start off by helping youth with problems (difficulties at home, school, etc.) in an innocent manner, but the situations turn inappropriate when the adult takes advantage of a vulnerable youth.
- 92% of teens go online daily and 90% of teens text so the opportunity for abuse through electronic communication is extremely high.
- 33% of boys and 36% of girls report that they have been cyberbullied. Social media adds the anonymous aspect to bullying that is particularly dangerous.
- 20% of teens “sext.” Apps like Snapchat, Ask.fm, and Monkey leave the impression that photo messages will vanish after a set time, but there are still ways to gain access to these photos after they have “disappeared.”
- 14-20% of teens report being solicited online for pictures or in-person meetings. Youth are more willing to ask for photos or to meet up over social media because of the lack of face-to-face interaction.
Keeping up with the seemingly countless ways youth are messaging or using social media can be overwhelming. Fortunately, by working in tandem with the parents of youth in organizations, there are four suggested strategies your organization can utilize to protect youth from the risks of technology:
- Develop Policies
- Create an acceptable use policy for computers and portable communication devices (cell phones, tablets, laptops).
- Define boundaries for texting, email, and social networking between staff and youth in your organization (rule of 3, time restrictions, what is acceptable to discuss).
- Ensure that policies are not forgotten when staff changes are made.
- Train Your Team
- Focus on preventing abuse rather than responding to it.
- Inform staff on how offenders use the Internet and electronic communication to groom minors.
- Staff should be able to recognize red flag behaviors and be willing to report youth discussing inappropriate online communications.
- Work alongside parents by hosting town-hall meetings or creating pamphlets to provide information on the harmful aspects of social media
- Encourage parents to discuss with their kids about the dangers of social media and online communication.
- Monitor and Enforce Policies
- Keep track of youth and staff usage of technology in your programs. Youth who spend large amounts of time online are more susceptible to abuse, and it is important to know how staff is utilizing technology while at work.
- Download a blocking software that prevents access to inappropriate sites on computers at your organization.
- Respond Quickly
- Develop specific steps for responding to adult-to-youth abuse (inappropriate computer use or electronic communications) and youth-to-youth abuse (online harassment, cyberbullying, and sexting).
- Avoid the tendency to minimize concerns – do not brush off reports. It is important to take every account seriously.
- Document reports of abuse.
- Cyberbullying Resources: http://cyberbullying.org/resources/teens
- Resources for kids: http://netsmartz.org/NetSmartzKids
- Sexting laws by state: https://cyberbullying.org/state-sexting-laws.pdf
- Do you know what apps your kids are using?: https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2017/09/12/honestly-know-apps-kids-using
For more information about how to prevent social media abuse or any of our additional resources, contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org or 817.801.7773.