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Adults, Minors and Social Media…Oh My!

How in the world did we communicate with others before email? Or text? And how did we have any friends without The Gram, Likes and Shares?

Because electronic communication and social media are so ubiquitous, it’s sometimes hard to think about interacting or communicating without them.  And, that’s the problem.

Here I go again…telling you that the ‘way we’ve always done it’ isn’t such a good idea anymore. Sorry.  Not sorry.

Coaches: Don’t have one-one-one electronic communication with your athletes. And don’t interact with them on social media. It doesn’t matter if they are 7 years old or 17 years old.  Just don’t.

Parents: Don’t let your kids have one-one electronic communication with their coaches.  And don’t let them interact with them on social media.  It doesn’t matter if your kiddo is 7 years old or 17 years old.  Just don’t.

I think we would all agree that most people absolutely have our kid’s best interest at heart and most people have no ill intention. But…abuse of a child doesn’t ‘just happen out of nowhere.” A perpetrator builds a relationship of trust with his or her intended victim(s)…and very often, that child’s family and community. That process is called GROOMING. Grooming is a process of manipulation that is intentional and very well-planned.

And, as you can imagine, electronic communication and social media are exceptional tools for a perpetrator to get to know and build relationship with a kiddo.  Especially an older teen, who might be flattered by the attention.

From a real news story: “XX asked the girl to add him to her Snapchat account, which she did.  XXX told the student it was better to communicate through Snapchat because there would be no proof of their conversation.”

According to an Arizona trial record, “Records show Facebook and Instagram messages between an account that appears to be XXX and different high school girls.”  XXX “admitted his intention was to seek a date with either student.” XXX acknowledged that “he would have continued the conversation in a lewd direction if the student had responded to the massage question.”

I get a lot of pushback on this prevention tip. When someone is well-intended with youth, it can be annoying to think of a different way of doing things.  But it’s not that tough or inconvenient.  It just means that you never text, message or email just one member of the team…you communicate with all members.  If it really does apply to only one person, copy the parent or your supervisor.

Youth sports organizations should have policy against adults or older youth staff/volunteers having outside of program communication with minors. With a policy, the behavior is prohibited by everyone.  No one has to use their “best judgement” on who should or shouldn’t be building relationship with a minor outside the program.

Because youth protection must be constant and consistent.

Safe Sport Authorization Act? What The Heck Are You Talking About?

Are you involved in amateur youth sports? How about a travel team that competes outside the state? Perhaps you run this sports organization or perhaps you are a coach, volunteer or parent.

If you are part of an amateur youth sports organization that participates in interstate or international competition, you now fall under the mandate of a new federal law, “Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017 ”  It is better known as the Safe Sport Authorization Act and it is designed to minimize the risk of child sexual abuse within your sports organization.

Your amateur youth sports organization now has very specific requirements for athlete protection.

  1. Your staff, volunteers, and “anyone these organizations authorize to interact with minor amateur athletes” are required to report known or a reasonable suspicion of child abuse to local law enforcement within 24 hours;
  2. Your organization is legally required to have policies & procedures that specifically address child sexual abuse prevention & response;
  3. Your organization is legally required to train staff, volunteers, and anyone authorized to interact with minor amateur athlete on child sexual abuse prevention and response; and
  4. Your organization is legally required to provide parents training on child sexual abuse prevention and response. Parents aren’t legally required to participate in the training, but your sports organization is required to make it available.

What was once considered ‘best-practices’ in child protection is now federal law.

In my next blog, I’ll talk about the possible consequences to non-compliance.

Best regards,

Toby