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Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing at Scouts. Read more

Discover what this means

Staying safe online

Keep young people safe online and digitally.

At Scouts, keeping everyone safe is our number one concern.

That’s why we all need to continue to follow the Code of Practice in the Yellow Card when connecting with young people digitally, including online.

A young person should never be in a one-to-one situation with an adult, whether it’s in person, online or digital communication.

As always, if a volunteer has any concerns about a young person’s welfare, including their online experiences, they must follow the reporting process set out in the Yellow Card.

Remember, you'll need to risk assess your activities as normal. You can find guidance and examples on our Risk assessments page.

Online safety advice for young people

  • A grown up needs to know when you’re using a computer, tablet or phone, and what you are using it for. Remember to ask them before you use it. 
  • It’s dangerous to tell new friends online too much about yourself, so make sure you don’t tell them your name, your phone number, where you live or where you go to school.
  • If somebody you don’t know and have never met asks for a photo or video of you, don’t send one. If this happens, always tell a grown up that you trust. 
  • Only accept or make phone and video calls to people you know. The only time you may need to call someone you don’t know is in an emergency. You may need to or be asked to call 999.
  • Bullying makes people feel sad. If you’re being bullied, tell one of your trusted grown-ups, such as a parent, a teacher, or a Scouts volunteer.
  • Some secrets can be nice and enjoyable, such as planning a surprise party for someone. If there are secrets that make you feel sad, scared or unhappy, remember to tell someone a grown up that you trust. They can help you feel better. 
  • Some games on phones and tablets cost money and may be for older people. Always ask the person who’s given you the phone or tablet if you can play games on there, so they can make sure they’re safe for you to play. 
  • If you see something you don’t like or that makes you feel scared or unhappy on a computer, tablet or phone, tell a grown up you know and trust. 
  • Grown-ups, remember to praise a young person if they’ve reported something to you and remind them that they’ve done the right thing. Let them talk about it and record what they say, following the guidelines on the Yellow Card. Remember to report this as appropriate, in line with the Yellow Card.

Think before you post: Only post things that show you or your friends in a positive way. You shouldn’t upload or share anything you wouldn’t want your parents, carers, friends, teachers, future employers or strangers seeing. Once you post something, you lose control of it, especially if someone else screenshots or shares it. 

Support your friends online: Support your friends both online and offline, then you can show you are listening to them by respecting their boundaries, treating them with kindness, and helping them to have a fun time online. If your friend is struggling after something happens online, you can use reporting tools or help them to speak to an adult they trust. Being there for your friends can help them to feel less alone and can encourage them to seek further assistance if they need it.

Always block and report abuse: Block and report anyone who sends any abusive, negative or unsafe messages. You should then talk to an adult you trust. If you’re talking to someone online and they make you uncomfortable, remember you don’t have to talk back to them and you’ve the power to end the conversation.

Think critically about online ‘friends’: If you’re chatting with people that you only know online, remember that they may not be who they say they are. Protect yourself by not sharing personal information with them. If you’re unsure, remember it’s safest only to accept ‘friend’ requests from, or talk to, people you know in real life. If anyone asks to meet, tell an adult you trust straight away.

Protect your privacy: Turn off your Bluetooth to avoid unwanted Airdrops. You should only use a secure public wi-fi and log out of shared devices. Remember to regularly check what people can see in your privacy settings. Don’t forget to regularly check who’s in a Whatsapp or Facebook group and remove anyone who no longer needs access.

Think before you click links: Always double check links. Check any website you’re using has ‘https’ at the start of the address, especially for online banking, so that you know it’s secure. You can install anti-virus software, too.

Keep your passwords safe: Use secure passwords and never give out your password or log-in information. Pick strong, easy-to-remember passwords. Use two-factor authentication, where possible, especially for online payments. 

Protect people’s identity: Pick a username that isn’t your real name and keep information, such as yours or someone else’s address, phone number, full name, school and date of birth, private. Even small clues, such as a school logo in a profile photo, can help someone find out a lot about you or someone else.

Cover your webcam: Some viruses will let someone access your webcam without you knowing, so make sure you cover your webcam whenever you’re not using it. You could use a specific cover for webcams, or just some sticky tack!

Watch out for scams: There are lots of websites that’ll try to trick you or pretend to be something or someone else. Fake accounts may try to ask you for information or money. If you’re unsure, don’t click it and get in touch with the company to confirm if it’s real.

Three volunteer chatting, one of them is making a heart shape with her hands

Staying safe using online video calls in Scouts

There must be at least a minimum of two adults present at all times during any online meetings which involve adults and young people, with at least one being a member of Scouts.

Ideally, both adults should be Scout volunteers, but you can use an adult rota to support as you might normally do.

You may want to have three adults per meeting, so that there'll always be two adults present. For example, in case someone's wi-fi disconnects and an adult has to rejoin the meeting.

Young people must never be left in a one-to-one situation with an adult. This protects us all.

Learn more about ratios

There are many different platforms you can use to run activities or sessions online. They’re all slightly different and most importantly, have different levels of security and privacy.

Take a look at some of the most popular platforms you can use.

Remember to read the platforms features and make the most of any features that restrict access to only those you invite, such as by setting a password.

When setting up your meetings, make sure each one requires a unique password and attendees are put into a virtual waiting room before joining. This ensures no young person's left alone with an adult online. 

Most live video call platforms, such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, have a minimum age requirement. You should check the terms and conditions of services to make sure they’re suitable.

If the young people in your group are under the minimum age requirement of the tool you want to use, then their parents or carers must set up the required accounts and remain nearby throughout the meeting.

For Squirrels, Beavers and Cubs, a parent or carer should be present in the room at all times.

Scouts and Explorers should have an adult nearby, so that they can ask for help if they need it. 

You should ask parents or carers to 'drop' their young person off to the meeting, so you know that they've a responsible adult nearby if they need any help. This'll also give you a chance to talk to parent or carers if you need to.

Make sure parents and carers know that you’ll still be following the Yellow Card guidelines and why you’re doing this.

For adult volunteers, if you’re calling from home and there are other people around, make sure those people are dressed appropriately and know how to behave when you’re talking to young people. It might be best to ask other people to stay out of the room that you’re making the call from. 

Make sure your background space is young person friendly, ensuring nothing inappropriate's on display. You shouldn't be drinking alcohol or have alcohol in the video.

Some of the video calling software has a built-in option to ‘blur’ the background, which you may feel this is an appropriate feature to turn on.

Young members must take part in the video call in a suitable communal environment and not a bedroom. They should be appropriately dressed, as they would for a face-to-face meeting.

You should remind parents and carers to make sure all members of their household are aware that the call's taking place.

Make sure parents and carers know that you’ll still be following the Yellow Card guidelines and why you’re doing this.

Parents and carers will also need make sure they use appropriate language and behaviour when nearby or in the background, as well as make sure their young person's background is appropriate.

You can find backgrounds for you to use on your live video calls, such as on Zoom, on the Scout brand centre.

During your virtual meetings, if you have an activity that will involve breaking out into a smaller group, as long as there is more than one young person within the group, you don't need more than one adult to be present. This'll ensure that the Yellow Card is being adhered to at all times.  

For example: If you've five young people within a breakout activity with one adult, this is acceptable. However, it's not OK to have one adult with one young person in any activity.

The person leading the call should outline the behaviour expected during your virtual meeting at the start of each one, such as asking people to mute themselves while others are speaking.

You may choose to disable some features of the live video call platform, such as the chat box, or have a responsible adult assigned to monitor this part of the call.

If you have a lot of people on a call, think about how they can join in the conversation without interrupting each other. Could they do a hand signal if they have something to say or hold up a sign with their name on?

Some Scout groups and areas use digital tools and methods to provide an excellent programme for young people and volunteers, including meetings, training sessions for volunteers, or local team meetings.

You may be tempted to use the record button that's available on many of the platforms, but before you do it's important that you consider some important elements first.

Read our guidance on recording meetings.

Staying safe on social media and messenger platforms

Many platforms allow users to upload and share videos and photos. 

If you're using a platform that allows videos and photos to be uploaded, make parents and carers aware that young people may be able to do this.

If young people are below the minimum age of the platform, you need to communicate via the parents and carers.

Make sure Facebook groups are private, so only members and/or parents/carers of your section can join. You should make sure young people have their responsible adult’s permission before uploading content to any platform.

Volunteers may wish to upload videos/photos that young people can watch at home. Remember to include activity safety information within your videos and photos. You may want to upload YouTube videos private and only accessible by link. The link can then be shared to your section's parents and carers via email, Facebook group or instant messenger services.

If you're recording a video or taking photos, make sure your background space is young person friendly, ensuring nothing inappropriate's on display. It's important to make sure that no personal details are displayed, such as information that may identify your home address or a school uniform logo.

Be sure to triple-check the video or photo before uploading it to make sure it's the correct video or photo. It’s easy to make mistakes.

For all instant messaging services, including WhatsApp

You need parental or carer permission to use this form of messaging.

You need to make sure that the platform you use is age appropriate and within the age restrictions put in place by the platform. Always adhere to the age restrictions of the platform.

If young people are below the minimum age of the platform, you need to communicate via the parents and carers.

Parent or carer permission must be given for all those under eighteen, as per the latest version of Young Person Information form.

Make sure it’s a closed or private group, so that only you can add people. Make sure you know who everyone is, and remove people when they shouldn’t have access any more, for example if a young person or volunteer moves to a new section. 

A minimum of two adults, with at least one being a member of Scouts, must monitor the group to ensure there’s no bullying or inappropriate behaviour.

You must make sure that no young person messages or communicates with any adult directly on a one-to-one basis.

If this does happen, please don't respond to the one-to-one message. Instead, contact your local area manager and the young person's parents and carers. You should ask the parent or carer to speak to their young person to explain why it’s not appropriate.

If it happens again, report this to the Safeguarding team, so we can speak to parents and carer to make sure they’re monitoring their young person’s online usage.

Using WhatsApp

WhatsApp is a popular platform that uses your mobile phone number to communicate within a group. 

Remember, creating a WhatsApp group will mean that an individual's mobile number is shared and can be seen by everyone in the group.

On WhatsApp you can set up a broadcast list which keeps phone numbers private. To find out more read WhatsApp’s advice on setting up broadcast lists. This is a useful option if you want to update lots of people at once, but it isn’t appropriate to set up a group.

WhatsApp shouldn’t be the only means of communication, ensuring those without or not using it for this purpose are not excluded.

The Yellow Card

We all need to continue to follow the Code of Behaviour set out in the Yellow Card when connecting with young people online.

Read the Yellow Card

Useful websites

  • NSPCC: Support around online safety or bullying

  • Thinkuknow:Tips for staying safe online

  • ACT Early: Guidance and information on staying safe online, and preventing radicalisation and extremism

  • The NSPCC have developed the Report Remove tool to support young people to remove illegal nude images of themselves online

Visit our online digital skills platform

Digital skills help us find, create and share information with others. In an increasingly online world, they've become more important than ever.

We know not everyone at Scouts is confident with technology, which is why we've developed a list of useful skills to help you with your volunteering.

Jump in and put your digital skills to the test.

Go to the digital skills platform

Taking Scouts online

Delivering online activities or sessions can be a great way to mix up your programme. Whether it's your wet weather plan or a way to meet up virtually with another group, we've got lots of activity ideas and advice to help you.

Taking Scouts online