Digital safeguarding policy

How to use the internet - including social media - safely

Approved: June 2021
Version: 2
Content owner: Safe practice

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

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. And as part of this we believe it’s important we can demonstrate best practice in digital safeguarding.

The digital safeguarding 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 safeguarding incidents that happen online, by following the digital safeguarding policy and its procedures. For further guidance on handling disclosures, please refer to our guidance on the 'dos and don’ts' of handling disclosures.


For guidance on putting this policy into practice, please see the digital safeguarding procedures page.

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’.

In other words, digital safeguarding is how we help to keep our members, volunteers and staff safe online, and it’s just as important as keeping safe offline.

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 characteristics
  • Sharing of illegal and inappropriate imagery
  • Cyberstalking
  • Impersonation and hacking
  • Disinformation and misinformation
  • The oversharing of personal information

Who is this policy for?

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

We expect volunteers to follow the code of conduct online just as they would offline. 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.

What does this policy cover?

This policy explains our approach to protecting members, volunteers and staff, and is directly related to Girlguiding’s safeguarding policy and managing information policy.

It specifically covers all Girlguiding activities, including activities done on behalf of Girlguiding at national, international, and regional levels, which take place online, activities that take place over internet connectivity provided by Girlguiding, as well as activities on proprietary and third party (non-Girlguiding affiliated) service providers, including digital platforms, and devices.

'Digital platforms' includes social media websites and apps such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, but also software and apps such as Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp, Google Drive, and emails. 'Devices' include computers and smartphones. For further guidance look at our digital platforms guidance.

Girlguiding promotes safe use, but we are constrained by third-party service providers' terms of service in our approach. We recognise that some issues will only be able to be handled by the service provider and the user themselves.

Girlguiding’s digital safeguarding principles

  • 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 volunteers and staff in digital safeguarding.
  • Maintain 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 digital safeguards are in place.
  • Support volunteers and staff via our safeguarding structure.

To put these principles into practice, our volunteers, members and staff must:

  • Ensure that social media accounts are set up and used responsibly, by using disclaimers to make it clear that their views, thoughts and opinions are personal and not reflective of Girlguiding policies, procedures and guidance. And  follow all community guidelines and terms and conditions set out by third party social media providers, including age restrictions. For further guidance on digital platforms, including social media, please see our guidance on digital platforms for guiding.
  • Follow Girlguiding’s code of conduct the same online as they would offline.
  • Make sure that technical solutions are in place to reduce access to illegal or inappropriate content on devices owned or used by Girlguiding or local Girlguiding units. These could be filtering or monitoring software, such as 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 digital safeguarding procedures..
  • Make sure that they have parent or carer permissions before contacting any girl or young member under 14 years of age, even if they've 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 relevant privacy settings.
  • Recognise that digital safeguarding is an important part of all our work, and that we are committed to always delivering best practice.

Who is responsible for digital safeguarding across Girlguiding?

The Safe practice department at Girlguiding HQ, which includes the Safeguarding team leads on digital safeguarding in Girlguiding and works with the Digital team on technical content and user advice. The Safeguarding team interprets legislation and makes sure Girlguiding is legally compliant and demonstrating effective safeguarding practice. 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].

For further information please see our safeguarding structure and the do’s and don’ts of handling disclosures.

Girlguiding will only share information with other agencies where there are significant concerns, or a potential crime has been committed.

How will breaches of 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.

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.

Hacking is the unauthorised access or use of computer systems or networks, often by exploiting weaknesses in security.

Impersonation is where a user pretends to be someone else online, often by taking photos from social media to build a fake profile. This is sometimes known as “catfishing”.

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.