Social Media and Scouting is a tough thing to understand. In this digital age, we want to share what is happening or what we are doing. As well as what we are eating! I first wrote about Social Media and Scouting for the University of Scouting in 2012 when Jerry Schleining Jr and I put on a course for about three years. I also wrote about Social Media and Scouting in 2011.
So, what has changed and why talk about it again in 2016? Well, nothing really has changed since 2011 or 2012. Yes, there are more platforms and programs that are being used. The BSA and Order of the Arrow have gotten more active within the world of #Hashtags. Councils seem be ramping up and pushing out content. Jerry and I have been working (not too much lately) with Council for Podcasts and other media outlets.
All of this is fine and dandy, but I keep coming back and explaining two to three items when it comes to Social Media and Scouting. And really just plain Internet Safety.
The first is this, do not put out anything personal on the Interwebs. Do not give out information that could be used against you or used for Fraud. Keep it clean and know your audience. This also goes for teaching your children the hazards of the Internet. They just do not get it.
The National BSA has updated a lot of the requirements for all ranks in Scouting. One of them is The Cyberchip. This is not just for Scouting, but for all. While predators are still on the streets looking to abduct kids, they are also online looking for them as well. You need to watch what your kids are doing online. Which means monitoring who they play with via Mindcraft and Clash of Clans. Kids chat on there.
Secondly: Do not use OPEN Facebook Groups or Pages to display/post stuff about your Scout Unit. They should be CLOSED. This is where the National BSA and I will disagree. The BSA states that it should be OPEN. Do you want to have photos posted that show your Scout with identifiable information of who they are, what they look like, where they go, what they do open to the public? Yes, we want to share the fun and excitement for others to see. Parents want to see what is happening on outings and events. However most of these events are controlled by Scout Leaders. We are the ring of saftey around the Scouts. As part of Youth Protection, we scan and monitor the area and who comes by. Yes, we intervene when non-Scout Unit people approach the Scouts. We do ask that they point their camera away or wait until the Scouts leave. I and other Scout Leaders have done this. Many people understand and thank us. It is all part of Youth Protection.
So, Yes, CLOSE the group or page that you moderate. Also, do not allow tagging of the photos. That opens up a stream of allowing others to view in.
Only allow those within the Scout Unit to be included. Once that youth has moved on, remove them from the group and their parents. If you want, have an alumni page/group and post there. This will allow people to be updated and in touch with the Unit.
And finally, Digital Communications with Scouts. The guidelines for most Social Media outlets like Facebook is that it is for 13 years and older. If I know that a Scout is online and 11 years old and tries to friend me on Facebook, I will not accept. I generally will mention it to the parent because sometimes they do not know their Scout has an account. If they do, that is fine. It is not my place to parent their child in that manner.
It is my rule for myself, that I do not “Friend” any Scout let alone person under 18 that is not related to me by blood or marriage.
Since I deal with email communications or via Scoutbook with Scouts, I always will respond with a copy to their parent or the Scoutmaster. As a Merit Badge Counselor, in Scoutbook a Scout can send me a message via email. That email via Scoutbook does blind copy the Scouts Parent. That is something that in testing Scoutbook we found out. I have to cc his parent or the Scoutmaster in my reply since it was not included in the original email.
Email communications with a Scout without a copy to an adult is one on one communication. Many parents do not understand this.
Social Media is a lot different than it was even in 2009 and earlier. Be careful as to what you allow in and out. Take the BSA Youth Protection course. Take the Cyber Chip course with your kids. Even if you are not in Scouting, these resources will help you and others.