Social networking services, more commonly referred to as social media, allows users to create their own content and share it with a vast network of individuals.
Online social media sites – such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – enable interaction between groups of people with similar interests and hobbies.
Social media users establish an online ‘profile’ on a social media site or app (on mobile devices), containing information about themselves. This might include personal information such as their name, photographs, social activities or hobbies and interests.
What social media means for sport
Social media provides unique opportunities for sports organisations to engage and develop relationships with people in a creative and dynamic forum where users are active participants.
It's widely used to promote sports activities, campaigns and events. Groups, clubs and other sports organisations also use it to communicate with coaches, officials and participants (including young people) regarding club news.
With the development of mobile devices, it opens up new ways for organisations and young people to communicate quickly and more informally.
Potential risks to young people
The same potential risks that are found in the online world – see the tab above-left (or below, on mobile devices) – apply to social media. Additional risks include:
- bullying or berating by peers and people they consider ‘friends’ – in sport this can include negative comments or reactions to their performance or achievement
- being encouraged to create or share inappropriate or harmful material of themselves or others, including sexting (sexual images or video)
- encouragement to take part in violent behaviour or harmful trends
- communicating with people they don’t know, including potentially dangerous individuals
How to minimise the risks
- ensure staff and volunteers have a general knowledge of the types of technology, sites or applications young people may be using
- address the safeguards that affect young people by developing clear guidelines for them to follow
- develop guidance and advice for staff and volunteers to ensure that interactions with users take place in an appropriate manner
- be clear about what you want to achieve by using social media
- make sure staff and volunteers are aware of this when choosing to post or share content
- develop an acceptable use statement and/or online safety policy for your club or organisation that includes social media
You also need to have procedures and specific codes of conduct in place to promote a safe online environment for children and young people.