Digital safeguarding procedures

Follow these procedures to make sure you're staying safe online and following our digital safeguarding policy

The online space is being used more and more by all of us in guiding

It's exciting, but it can have some challenges. That’s why we need to follow our digital safeguarding policy and our code of conduct when connecting and communicating online.

These procedures set out how to put the digital safeguarding policy  into practice.

Using digital technology

  • If you're using a laptop, tablet, smartphone or similar device that's owned by Girlguiding, the unit or level, you must agree to use it safely, securely, and responsibly.
  • You can use your personal device for Girlguiding business. Follow these procedures to reduce the risks and protect our members. If you are using your own device for guiding business, then you must be transparent, open to scrutiny and follow the digital safeguarding policy.

If you're using Girlguiding's equipment, you must not:

  • Share, download, print or distribute anything that is illegal, defamatory, obscene, indecent, pornographic, offensive, discriminatory, sexual or violent. Or any content that may cause harassment, alarm or distress.
  • Use the equipment to cause harassment, alarm or distress to others.

You need to keep people's personal information safe online. This includes details that might be stored on your phone or laptop.

  • Make sure that all devices, including mobile phones, are password protected. 
  • Where you're sharing a personal device, make sure that only people with permission can view Girlguiding data and information.
  • If you're asking for personal information by email, use an email account that only you can access. Do not use an address that's shared with your unit team or family members.
  • Check the managing information procedure for more details on what you must do. 

To reduce the risk of young members viewing anything that would be illegal or inappropriate, you must:

  • Make sure that young members are supervised in an age-appropriate way when they go online or look at digital media.
  • Use security and safety settings, such as parental controls, when setting things up. These will help protect children from inappropriate content online, such as pornography or other adult content.
  • Read more about parental controls on Childnet.com

When we connect online we need to keep all our members safe. You should read, understand and stick to the terms and conditions of the site or app you're using. This includes any minimum age requirements.

Running unit meetings online

Virtual unit meetings can be loads of fun, but make sure you're keeping everyone safe by reading our guide to safe online guiding. This explains the steps you need to take to set up your online meetings.

Using social media

Email, social media and the internet are great tools for contacting other members, welcoming new girls and volunteers to Girlguiding and promoting Girlguiding.

We want our social media channels to reflect the values we uphold as an organisation; to be kind, courteous, thoughtful of others, inclusive, inspiring and above all, fun.

Social media can be a great way to spread the word about guiding and find girls and volunteers in your area.

  • If you create an account or page that represents Girlguiding, like a Facebook group for your district or a Twitter for your unit - you must follow our policies and procedures, including our resources on promotion using social media, and how to use our brand.
  • Add a short description explaining what you provide and who the account is for on any accounts you set up in the name of Girlguiding.
  • You must include a short statement explains who owns the content. For example, you could say: ‘the views expressed are those of Girlguiding ‘insert name’ county'.
  • Follow all community guidelines and terms and conditions set out by the social media companies, including age restrictions.
  • You can find more guidance on digital platforms, including social media, in our advice on digital platforms for guiding and promotion using social media.

Always behave the same on social media as you would in person. Be aware of what you say and how you say it.

Remember that anything you post on social media will be widely accessible and can easily be passed on. Always be sure that any posts you make are appropriate, and in keeping with our values and policies.

Check facts before sharing to avoid any misinformation and always follow our code of conduct.

You must not:

  • Post or share anything, including images, that's discriminatory, of a sexual nature, pornographic, obscene, violent, offensive. Or that might cause distress, harassment or alarm to others. Or anything that might have a negative impact on the reputation of Girlguiding.
  • Share discriminatory or abusive opinions about anyone protected by the Equality Act 2010. This included the protected characteristics of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
  • Send messages and photos privately to young members, without the permission of their parent or carer.

Posting photos and videos is great for showing all the exciting activities we offer girls. But not everyone wants their picture taken or shared.

  • You must get permission for photography from parents and carers. Use the new starter forms to help girls and their parents or carers control how their images are used.
  • Review and check these permissions as and when you need to. And make sure you check parent/carer photo permissions on GO
  • To get permission for taking photos at events and residentials, use the information and consent form
  • You must delete images from your personal devices once they've been used, and within 14 days after the event.
  • You must also check emails and personal cloud back-ups to make sure that any copies are deleted.
  • Photos can be stored on a password protected device in a secure folder until they need to be deleted
  • You cannot use photos or video of girls after they have left guiding, even if they gave their permission at the time. When a girl leaves the unit, any consent she's given for photos or videos comes to an end.  You can keep some photos in your unit archives, but these cannot be used publicly. If photos or videos of a member who has left have already been published, then the images will only need to be removed after the original two-year expiry window has ended. These do not have to be removed prior to this unless the leaver explicitly requests this. The unit retention schedule sets out the length of time you can keep different types of data.
  • Read the data protection FAQs for guidance on archiving photos

You must not:

  • Take photos of young members without getting permission from parents or carers first.
  • Share young members images or personal information without the consent of parent or carers.

Using instant messages

When considering instant message platforms and apps, check the terms and conditions, privacy settings and age limits before deciding which app to use.  

Some of these apps will share people's phone number with a whole group. You'll need to ask people for their permission before you add them to a group. And let them know they can leave at any time. On Facebook, people must opt-in to give their consent. 

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. 

You should not contact a parent or carer using online video calls or virtual meetings outside of the pre-arranged meeting time. 

Messaging with young members 

If you do need to message young members digitally, you must avoid one-to-one contact between a volunteer and a young member.

You need to do this during virtual meetings too. Girls may want to speak privately, for example if they don't feel well,  but we advise against that and you should avoid it.

If a girl does message you during a virtual meeting, you should tell them that it cannot be a private conversation. Then you or they can add someone else to the chat.

If a young member uses a channel that cannot have someone ‘copied in’, like WhatsApp, you should still tell them that this cannot be a private chat and introduce someone else into the conversation.

If a young member contacts you on a channel that is not age appropriate, for example using WhatsApp when they're under 16, you must move the conversation to a more appropriate platform, and copy someone else in. Do not forget to reply to the young member, as no response might impact their safety, health and wellbeing. 

Aged 14 -17

Young members aged 14 years or older must add their details to GO. The starter form for 14-17-year-olds needs to be completed and signed by a parent or carer with parental responsibility.

Under 14

You must never contact members under the age of 14 directly without their parents or carers permission.

Young external volunteer aged 13

Use the new starter form for young external volunteers aged 13 to get contact details for their parent or carer, so you can send all relevant communication through them.

Once they turn 14, the volunteer can give their leader a personal email address so that they can log into GO and add their own contact details.

Brownie and Rainbow helper

When a girl becomes a helper, you must get contact details for her parents or carers so that you can send her all relevant communications through them. You must not communicate directly with helpers under the age of 14 by phone, email, text, social media or other digital or electronic means.

A completed Information and consent for event/activity form is required for Rainbow and Brownie helpers for any activities away from the meeting place and a virtual meeting consent form is needed for online meetings.

Girl-led residentials

For all girl-led residentials, an information and consent form must be completed, with parent or carer consent given for you to contact young members directly if needed.

Digital devices in your unit meetings

You might not always want girls to be using their phones and devices during meetings or other activities. It can help manage your unit and give girls a fuller experience if you limit when and where they are used. You should talk with young members about:

  • Bringing their mobile devices to unit meetings, events and camps. Decide as a group before the event what your guidelines will be.
  • Using their mobile phone or other device appropriately and responsibly. Make sure they know how to get permission before sharing photos or videos.
  • Using social media responsibly and safely, within the community guidelines and terms and conditions of the platform. Remember to talk about any age restrictions.

Young members must not:

  • Use their device to bully, harass, alarm, distress or harm another person.
  • Share images or videos on social media without permission.
  • Access, download, view or distribute inappropriate, indecent, discriminatory or hate material.
  • Contact volunteers directly without their parents or carers permission, except in an emergency.
  • Send friend requests  to or follow volunteers' individual or personal accounts without their parents or carers permission.
  • Use social media inappropriately, or use channels where they do not meet the age restrictions.
  • Share indecent, sexually explicit or inappropriate material
  • Be in a one-to-one conversation with a volunteer. Girls may want to speak privately with a volunteer, but we advise against it and it must be avoided whenever possible.

Our young member policy sets out our expectations of young members.

In cases of child and adult safeguarding and protection all volunteers should refer to our safeguarding policy.