When we talk about minimizing opportunity for child sexual abuse, many people think of eliminating physically isolated, one-on-one interactions. But it includes virtual interactions as well.
To protect kids and reduce risk for abuse, communications between teachers, instructors, or coaches and their students should include parents. This includes emails, texts, and instant messages – even if it’s just a short message about a change in class or practice schedule, this is information parents should also have from both practical and prevention standpoints.
In many cases, instructors and former instructors are friends with their students on various social media outlets. To ensure all communications are above-board, posts should be public and professional. Physical boundaries should respected online just like they are in person. A coach or instructor who posts inappropriate statements on a student’s social media page is cause for concern.
Organizations should have communication policies included in their codes of conduct that address appropriate communications between staff and/or volunteers and the children they serve. An organization may choose to ban all interaction on platforms like social media, or simply to regulate them. The important thing is to have a policy that protects children, and to enforce it.
The steps above are small, but they make a large difference in prevention efforts. The more an organization minimizes opportunity for abuse, the more they protect the children in their care.