Safe online guiding

How to keep all our members safe when we connect online

Keeping all our members safe is a priority when we connect online

Make sure you check our digital safeguarding policy before setting up any online activities with girls or volunteers. And remember that our Code of Conduct also covers how you behave online. The steps on this page are part of our digital safeguarding procedures.

All the things you do in your unit to keep girls safe still apply when we go online:

  • You must have at least two adult volunteers in the meeting.
  • At least one adult volunteer must have, or be working towards, their Leadership qualification and a current disclosure check (DBS/Access NI/PVG). 
  • At least one adult volunteer must have completed Level 3 of A Safe Space training.
  • Any volunteer who doesn't need a disclosure check for their role must be supervised by someone with a current disclosure check.
  • There should be no one-to-one contact between a volunteer and a young member through digital tools or messages.
  • You must complete a virtual meeting checklist and risk assessment (PDF) before running online meetings.

Get parent or carer permission

Online or virtual guiding should be treated as an activity outside of the unit meeting, so you’ll need to get written permission from parents or carers for girls to join in. 

These forms can cover multiple online meetings - you don't need a signed form for each meeting.

These forms have been designed to be filled out remotely, so you don't need to meet with parents for their signatures and they can email the completed forms back to you. All instructions are included on the forms.

  • Always contact parents and talk through your plans for online meetings. Explain how you’ll be meeting, how often and what they need to do to support their child’s guiding experience.
  • Do remember that, like all of us, parents, carers and family members are going to have a lot on their mind at the moment and might be juggling many responsibilities. Guiding at home should always be fun and not at all compulsory for girls or their families.
  • If a girl doesn’t meet the age requirements for the platform you want to use, they can join using an account set up by their parent or carer. The parent or carer should stay nearby during the meeting, so they can ask for help if they need it. As the account holder, the parent or carer should also be the one to log into the meeting and out again at the end.

Running safe online meetings

  • Decide on a programme that will work best for you and your unit. Check the terms and conditions of the platforms, as many are changing their features regularly, and review the advice from NSPCC Net Aware.
  • If you're having visitors join your virtual meeting, follow our guidance which applies online as well as in-person.
  • Set up your account so that each meeting requires a unique passcode, and attendees are put into a virtual waiting room before joining.
  • If you’re using video calls, make sure the room you’re in makes a suitable background for young members to see.
  • If you’re calling from home and have other people around, make sure they are dressed appropriately and know how to behave when you are talking to young members.
  • Young members should try to avoid making calls from their bedrooms. If they can’t avoid it, then suggest they blur the background, use a virtual background or only show a plain background in their room.
  • Girls under 14 need to have parents or adult carers with them when they join a video chat. Their parent or carer can stay nearby in the same room or can stay present during the meeting. Girls over 14 should have an adult nearby so that they can ask for help if they need it.
  • If a young member does not want to have their camera on for the meeting, ask that they turn their camera on at the drop-off/start and the end of the meeting so you can make sure that their parent/carer is aware and is staying in the same room or nearby so that they can ask for help if they need it.
  • Work with the girls in your unit to decide on some rules – like treating each other with respect and making sure everyone has a chance to speak. If you have a lot of girls on a call, ask them to 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 platforms allow direct messaging or group chats. Make sure your unit knows to behave kindly to each other. Explain how they can raise any worries with a leader.
  • Make it as simple as you can for girls to get involved, and think about how you make it easy, accessible, and inclusive for as many girls as possible.

Break out groups

You might want to break out into smaller groups in an online meeting as you would in your regular face-to-face meeting.

In each smaller break out group, you'll need to have at least one adult present. They must be a volunteer who holds, at least, a unit helper role.

For instance, you can have one leader with three young members. But you must not have one adult with one young person alone, in any activity. If this happens, end the communication and inform the unit leader.

If your unit does not have enough volunteers to run break out groups, you could try:

  • Joining with another unit so you have enough leaders when a specific activity needs break out sessions.
  • Pausing your meeting, let the girls go away and do the activity in their home. Then come back together to discuss and show each other what they’ve done. This can also help on platforms like Zoom if you have a limit on your time on the call – you can hang up the call and then start a new one once the girls have done their activity.

Although there are no adult:child ratios for Rangers, we would still recommend that there is at least one adult volunteer present or more than 2 Rangers in each Ranger break out group.

Internet and devices

Not everyone has the same access to the internet, and with lots of people working from home even well-connected homes might have some trouble getting online.

When thinking about online guiding, think about what devices and connection girls might be able to use – you might want to check in with parents about this.

And remember, if people are using mobile data rather than wifi connection, video can use up a lot. Be careful to make sure you and young members don’t end up spending a lot of money on extra data.