Electronic and Social Media Communication Expectations Between Youth and Adult Leaders
Background and Philosophy
This document is intended to guide adult leaders of CER youth programs and is referenced in the code of ethics they sign. It is our regional implementation of the requirements of the 2019 UUA Youth Safety Guidelines. It is posted publicly so parents can view it. And as a resource for congregations. The guidelines here may not always be the best guidelines for individual youth programs, but hopefully the philosophy behind it can be a start to conversations.
We recognize that the area of social media and electronic communications are a difficult one for adults working with youth. These forms of communication are necessary to communication, leadership, and planning. And, they are forms of communication which both predatory adults and adults with poor boundaries use in ways which harm youth. Further, the technology solutions which would create transparency and allow youth to communicate using the forms of technology they are comfortable with do not (yet) exist.
We want our adult leaders to be able to be effective in their leadership and communication. We want youth to feel supported by their adult leaders and feel able to reach out when they need to. We do not think it is appropriate or possible to put the responsibility for appropriate means of communication on the youth shoulders and therefore assume that there will be one on one communication initiated by youth. We therefore want to create a culture through these expectations that thrives on transparency for the protection of both youth and adults.
Adults should only accept “friend” requests from youth on social media networks where:
- adults stay in an appropriate adult role in posting, content, discussion, and moderation of comments on their posts
- posts and discussion are visible to others
- posts are not automatically deleted
The primary means of electronic communication for teams of youth and adult leaders will be:
- email lists
- group emails
- Facebook groups and group messages
- group text messages such as through GroupMe
- mass reminder texts such as Remind101
- conference calls or video conferencing
Groups will covenant to use the forms of communication which work best for them.
Communication with youth should be archived rather than deleted
One on one communication should be avoided where possible, such as by copying another adult on an email/text/message.
If a youth contacts an adult one on one, the adult has the responsibility to redirect the conversation to an appropriate channel.
If an adult leader is contacted one on one with significant pastoral issues by a youth they are encouraged to appropriately respond in the moment to support the youth including assisting the youth in finding local sources of support such as their parents, religious educator, minister, teacher, or counselor.
Any significant (beyond logistics or reminders) one on one communication between a youth and adult leader must be reported to regional UUA staff as soon as is feasible.
If it is necessary to have a virtual one-on-one interaction between a youth/adult, the adult will: Let UUA staff and/or the parent/guardian know they will be communicating, around what time, and what about; and will ensure there is a record of the conversation, including recording phone calls with appropriate permissions required by law. Documentation should be archived for no less than 12 years.
As always, any communication an adult becomes aware of which involve harm to self or others including, but not limited to, self-harm, suicidal ideation, child abuse, sexual crimes against a minor, and bullying, must be shared as quickly as possible with a youth’s home congregation and parents and reported to regional staff.
Regional staff and parents have the right to ask to view any communication between adult leaders and youth.
Parents have the right to be copied on any communication they request. If they request to be added to group conversations, their role is only to witness and share any relevant logistic information pertaining to their youth. They are encouraged to share any concerns about the group business with adult leaders or regional staff rather than participating in conversation.