Digital safeguarding policy

Our policy on how to use the internet - including social media - safely

Approved: June 2020
Version: 1
Content owner: Safe Practice

Safeguarding is at the heart of everything we do in Girlguiding.

We have a responsibility to protect and promote the safety and wellbeing of girls, young women and adults as we help them reach their full potential through great guiding experiences.

We are committed to the welfare and safeguarding of all our members, volunteers and staff both offline, and online. And as part of this we believe it’s important we can demonstrate best practice in digital safeguarding.

This policy sets out the expectations for all Girlguiding members, volunteers, staff, associated contractors, third party providers and users to ensure the protection of children, young people and volunteers and staff online.

As volunteers and members of staff of Girlguiding it is our responsibility to raise concerns and report online incidents that happen inappropriately, using this policy and its procedures.

Girlguiding’s commitment to digital safeguarding

Girlguiding is committed to safeguarding our members, volunteers and staff – and it is our policy to apply the same rigorous level of safeguarding protection to online as we do in person.

We expect volunteers to follow the Code of conduct online. Staff and anyone who uses a @girlguiding.org.uk email address or other email address managed by Girlguiding UK must follow the Acceptable use policy, which can be found on the staff intranet.

Additional safeguarding measures must be put in place to minimise specific online risk. These can be found in the Digital safeguarding procedures.

Who is this policy for?

This policy is for Girlguiding, members, volunteers, staff and all users of Girlguiding online services, website and platforms.  It applies in the UK and in British Girlguiding Overseas (BGO) which includes branches.

It is directly related to Girlguiding’s Safeguarding and child protection policy and Managing information policies.

What does this policy cover?

This policy specifically covers all Girlguiding’s online and digital activities, plus all digital activities undertaken on behalf of Girlguiding at a national, international, and regional level, on proprietary platforms (ie non Girlguiding affiliated) and third-party social media and devices.

This includes but is not limited to email; social media channels (such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, WhatsApp, TikTok, LinkedIn); all blogging platforms; volunteer platforms; and other digital platforms such as Google Hangouts and Zoom; all ICT devices (including phones) and internet connectivity that is provided by Girlguiding.

This policy explains our approach to protecting members, volunteers and staff. We are constrained by the terms of service of third-party social media providers in our approach. We promote safe use, but we also recognise that some issues will only be able to be handled by the service provider and the user themselves.

Girlguiding’s digital safeguarding principles

In order to uphold these principles our volunteers, members and staff must:

  • Ensure that social media accounts are set up appropriately.
  • Make it clear on personal social media accounts using disclaimers that their views, thought and opinions are personal and not reflective of Girlguiding policies, procedure or guidance.
  • Make sure that technical solutions are in place to reduce access to inappropriate content on devices owned or used by Girlguiding. These could be filtering or monitoring software for example parental controls.
  • Ensure the correct permissions are in place before taking and using photographs on mobile devices.
  • Delete pictures after the event and in accordance with the Girlguiding privacy policy.
  • Make sure that they have parental permissions before contacting any girl or young member under 14 years of age, even if they have contacted you first.
  • Make every effort to ensure that girls and young members understand why and how they must use social media responsibly and safely using the appropriate privacy settings.

We recognise that digital safeguarding is an important part of all our work, and we are committed to always delivering best practice.

We will:

  • Ensure our projects, activities, programmes and campaigns support all of our members, volunteers and staff to stay safe online.
  • Use best practice digital safeguarding for technical solutions, processes and procedures.
  • Help our volunteers to support members in being effective online.
  • Take best practice action when a digital safeguarding incident occurs.
  • Support and train appropriate volunteers and staff in digital safeguarding.
  • Have appropriate links with key organisations to raise awareness and refer and report incidents.
  • Risk-assess all projects, initiatives, programmes, activities, services and campaigns to make sure appropriate digital safeguards are in place.

Who is responsible for digital safeguarding across Girlguiding?

The Safe Practice department leads digital safeguarding in Girlguiding and work with the Digital team about technical content and user advice. As a member, volunteer, or staff member, if you know of an allegation, concern or disclosure incident you must inform the Safeguarding team at Girlguiding HQ.

When an incident happens in a unit meeting or a member raises an issue at an online meeting, you must deal with it the same way as other safeguarding incidents. If you aren’t sure about how to handle incidents you should contact the Safeguarding team for support at [email protected].

Girlguiding is committed to the protection of our members, volunteers and staff and will only share information with other agencies where there are significant concerns, or a potential crime has been committed.

What do we mean by digital safeguarding?

Digital safeguarding means: ‘the protection from harm in the online environment through the implementation of effective technical solutions, advice and support and procedures for managing incidents’. Girlguiding is committed to the safeguarding and protection of all members, volunteers, staff and users of our digital services and social media channels, and we apply the same safeguarding principles to Girlguiding’s activities whether they are offline or online.

This means protecting our members, volunteers and staff from online harms such as:

  • Online bullying and harassment
  • Sexual exploitation and grooming online
  • Discrimination and abuse on the grounds of any protected characteristic
  • Sharing of illegal and inappropriate imagery
  • Cyberstalking
  • Impersonation and hacking
  • Disinformation and misinformation
  • The oversharing of personal information

Online bullying can be offensive, intimidating, malicious, insulting behaviour and abuse of power which humiliates or denigrates the other person. It can involve one or more person. This can be known as ‘trolling’ when the user deliberately starts quarrels or upsets people by posting inflammatory or off-topic messages in an online community.

Online harassment can come in the form of unwanted verbal conduct online which has the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person and or creating a hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. It can be related to personal characteristics of an individual, such as age, sex, race, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion or belief or nationality.

Online examples of this abuse include abusive messages, exclusion from groups, malicious or insulting comments and sharing offensive imagery.

Sexual exploitation and grooming online is the act of developing a relationship with a child with the intention of abusing them. Offenders use emotional and psychological tricks to build relationships. The abuse can take place online or offline.

Non-contact abuse is where a child is encouraged to share live or still images of themselves of a sexual nature. They can be forced to commit sex acts or to perform on web cams or built in cameras in phones and other devices.

It can be an offence to stir up hatred – known as inciting hatred - on the grounds of the following protected characteristics:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Race
  • Disability
  • Religion or belief
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage or civil partnership status
  • Pregnancy and maternity

The content of a website can also be illegal when it threatens or harasses a person or a group of people. If this is posted because of hostility based on protected characteristic, it can be considered a hate crime,

Illegal material could be in words, pictures, videos, and even music and can include:

  • Messages calling for racial or religious violence
  • Web pages with pictures, videos or descriptions that glorify violence against anyone due to a protected characteristic, for example their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or because they are transgender
  • Chat forums where people ask other people to commit hate crimes

The sharing of illegal and inappropriate imagery online (sometimes known as sexting) can fall into two categories: illegal and inappropriate.

‘Illegal’ is child sexual abuse imagery and imagery that incites violence, hate or terrorism. ‘Inappropriate’ in this context could mean the sharing of pornography, violent content, racist content and homophobic, biphobic or transphobic content.

It is an offence to share inappropriate imagery of anyone under the age of 18 and could result in a conviction.

Cyberstalking is the repeated use of electronic communications to harass or frighten someone, for example by sending threatening communications.

Impersonation and hacking online is where a user pretends to be somebody else, and they may hack into their profile and share information, imagery or posts for example, on behalf of that person.

Misinformation and disinformation are the acts of spreading knowledge that is incorrect.

Disinformation is the deliberate intent to spread information which is known to be incorrect. Misinformation is where an individual may not be aware of the fact that they are sharing inaccurate information, for example they share information or content that they believe to be true.

Personal information includes information that makes an individual personally identifiable. This can include name, date of birth, address, phone number, email address and social media profile name. It may also include identifying details based on an individual’s protected characteristic.

The law

Girlguiding adheres to all relevant UK laws relating to users of our digital platforms, third party social media and the use of our ICT equipment.

Relevant laws include:

  • Protection from Harassment Act 1997
  • Malicious Communications Act 1988
  • Communications Act 2003
  • Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992
  • Computer Misuse Act 1990
  • The Equality Act 2010
  • Criminal Justice Act 2003 – Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016
  • Sexual Offences Act 2003 – Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2016
  • Serious Crime Act 2015
  • Data Protection Act 2018

This list is not exhaustive. We review any changes in legislation to make sure we are compliant.

For relevant legislation concerning British Guiding Overseas including branches, please contact the BGO chief commissioner.

How will breaches in this policy be managed?

Any breach of this policy by volunteers will be managed under the Managing concerns about adult volunteers policy.

Any breach of this policy by staff will be managed under the staff disciplinary procedure. Staff can find this procedure on the staff intranet.