- Treat everything you share on social media like it’s public – All communication sent digitally (email, social networking sites, notes or posts) is not confidential. It’s so easy for someone to take a screenshot of a conversation or post and share it publicly with others.
- Keep records – All transcripts of online chats, blogs and videos should be saved when possible.
- Use private groups where needed – Adults who minister to youth and who want to connect via a social networking website can set up a private group account for the youth and their families. That way, events and activities can be discussed openly and everyone can stay informed.
- Be mindful of your audience – All clergy and adults who work with youth should consider the content of any post that could be read by youth. Your words are often considered the voice of the church.
- Sometimes face-to-face conversations are more appropriate – Email or instant messaging is not appropriate for matters that are pastorally or legally sensitive, emotionally charged or require extensive conversation. If a message is longer than a couple of sentences, it might be better to talk in person.
- Set healthy boundaries – In the world of social media, boundaries and safety practices must mirror the physical world. For example, a youth leader would not hold a conversation alone with a child, and should also not have a private chat on Facebook.
- Be smart about what you say – As the saying goes, common sense isn’t always common practice. The purpose of social media is to communicate with and inform your network, but make sure you do so tastefully and without revealing too much information. For instance, avoid advertising the location (or future location) of minors. It’s safer not to post something like the following: ‘The annual youth group lockin will be at the local YMCA on Saturday night from 9pm to 8am. See you there!’
- Get permission – Make sure you have permission when posting prayer requests; some people may not want personal matters shared online. If you do get permission, keep in mind some situations are extremely sensitive and you don’t need to share every little detail. Don’t post this: ‘Please pray for Susan—she is driving out of state this weekend to care for her mother who is experiencing postoperative complications after her rhinoplasty.’ Post this instead: ‘Please pray for Susan—she is traveling this weekend to visit her mother.’
- Respect copyrights – Speaking of permission, verify the material isn’t copyrighted when posting things that are not your own (e.g., professional directory photos, clip art, videos, articles). Share a link to a video instead of embedding it on the church’s website.
- Post content that is relevant – You probably already refrain from posting offensive content, but also make sure your posts are relevant and meaningful to everyone visiting the site. For instance, referring to an inside joke can alienate those who don’t know the story behind the humor.
- Monitor social media accounts regularly – Assign church staff or volunteers to monitor posts and delete any inappropriate content. Giving more than one person access to the accounts is a smart idea; that way if your social media manager goes on vacation or leaves, the accounts will still be updated. As insurance, post a disclaimer. (Just do a Google search for ‘Social Media Disclaimer’ if you need some examples.) You can’t control what others say, but most social media platforms allow you to block repeat offenders who continue to post offensive items.
- Learn how to change security settings – Remember, social media pages can serve as a first impression to people outside of the church. Although content such as group discussions should be private, make sure some of the information is public so others can learn about the church and its mission. To use Facebook as an example, the church could have a public Fan Page with posts for everyone to see and also have a private group for members to share pictures, videos and prayer requests.
Using social media allows your organization to reach diverse members both within and outside your church, from college students to busy moms. Implementing guidelines for how your organization engages in social media will help ensure safety to your staff and members.
Source: Ministry Tech