Online safety and social media

Last updated: 11 Oct 2023
Online safety

For sports organisations and activity providers, safeguarding should continue into the online world as well.

Organisation’s websites, social media channels and all forms of online or virtual communication should have safeguards in place to help to keep your young members and staff safe from harm while using them.

Why is online safety important for sport?

Having safeguards in place helps protect children and young people from potential online risks whilst in your organisations care. Including online safeguarding measures within your policies and procedures provides parameters for everyone.

This is especially important when communicating with young people online to ensure you’re using online platforms responsibly and creating a safer online culture.

What online safety means for sports

Using websites and social media platforms to promote your sport or organisation can have great benefits, such as encouraging a team ethos, sharing information or news to participants, listening to the voices of children and young people, and attracting new club members.

Potential risks for children and young people

When using online apps and creating online profiles on websites we share a wealth of information about ourselves publicly. This personal information could potentially be used to identify individuals and then possibly used to gain their trust or groom them for abuse.

Online safety risks for young people can include, but are not limited to:

  • making themselves identifiable by posting personal details on social media such as the school they attend or their home address
  • communicating with others online
  • potential for inappropriate relationships between adults in positions of trust or influence and the young people they work with
  • sexual grooming, luring, exploitation and abuse, or unwanted contact
  • exposure to inappropriate content, including pornography, racist or hate material or violent behaviour
  • being encouraged to create or share inappropriate or harmful material of themselves or others, including sexting (sexual messages, images or videos)
  • encouraging harmful activities including the use of harmful substances like illegal drugs, alcohol, cigarettes or vapes
  • cyberbullying, trolling or berating by peers and people they consider ‘friends’ – in sport this can include negative comments or reactions about their performance or achievement
  • access to inaccurate and therefore potentially harmful information
  • encouragement to take part in violent behaviour or harmful trends
  • seeing content or engaging in behaviours that promote unhealthy attitudes towards their health and bodies, this includes pro-anorexia content or self-harm content

Take a look at the NSPCC Learning website for more information about the types of abuse that can happen online.

Related resources

See our online-safety resources by clicking on the tab above left (or below, on mobile devices).

Related documents

Creating a safer online environment

Creating a safe environment can help keep children safer online whilst keeping in touch and staying up to date with the goings on in your organisation.

We have developed the following steps to help your sports club or activity to create a safer and more supportive online environment for children and young people within your setting:

  • firstly create a clear tone for your online content which is - welcoming and accepting of all young people and their differences
  • have an online safety policy and an acceptable use statement - which includes the use of social media channels for staff, volunteers, parents, children, and young people
  • reference your online safety policy within your safeguarding policy and make sure all staff are aware of your reporting procedures for online abuse
  • have specific procedures and specific codes of conduct for young people and staff to follow that outline what’s acceptable behaviour online and what is not

Policies and procedures

> Use our sample online safety and social media policy, to make sure your organisation is including everything that it needs to.

What to include in your online safety and social media policy?

  • ensure that everyone involved including coaches, volunteers, administrators, parents and children, understands and complies with their responsibilities and what's expected of them
  • managing your online presence, by outlining what your organisations will adhere to
  • address any instances of misconduct online in accordance with your online safety and social media policy, and deal with these appropriately (as outlined within your policies and codes of conduct)

Acceptable use statement

Having clear guidelines in place for the use of social media, should include an acceptable use statement and include having online behaviour expectations written into your codes of conduct for children and young people.

> Use our sample online acceptable use statement

Your acceptable use statement should include an agreement which outlines the expected and acceptable online behaviour for children and young people whilst in your care. This helps to ensure everyone within your setting knows what is acceptable use and agrees to uphold this.

Codes of conduct

It’s important to develop codes of conduct that use age and role appropriate language and example behaviours for each audience to cover:

  • children and young people
  • parents or carers
  • staff and volunteers

> Use our samples codes of conduct for parents, children and staff to help promote positive behaviour and to manage poor behaviour in your sport or activity.

What to include in your codes of conduct?

  • the expected behaviours that you want all staff and volunteers to adhere to
  • outline the rights of all staff and volunteers working with children in your setting

Dealing with online safety concerns

If any online safeguarding concerns arise these should be dealt with same way as any other safeguarding concerns, by following your organisations safeguarding policies and procedures that have been put in place.

For further information see our dealing with a concern guidance.

Using digital platforms safely

Social media best practice

There are several ways in which sports organisations and activity providers can reduce the risk of harm to children and young people whilst using social media platforms to communicate.

  • you can include guidance in your online safety and social media policy and in codes of conduct for staff
  • any online engagement with children and young people should be carried out as publicly as possible
  • avoid using encrypted networks such as WhatsApp and snapchat to communicate with young people, as these platforms are not public
  • agree parameters for staff and volunteers on accessing and communicating with young people on online platforms, to detail:

- will this be limited to normal office hours or outside of this?
- work devices and/or personal?
- parameters may also be different when events are held

  • ensure that your organisation has at least 2 members of staff with access to your social media accounts
  • equip young people with knowledge about the risks to them and how to deal with and report any concerns by referring them to Childline’s resources
  • develop clear guidelines on social media use for young people. This should include an acceptable use statement and writing online behaviour expectations into your codes of conduct for children
  • inform young people who they can contact if they need help or have any questions or concerns about social media

Video conferencing platforms

Video streaming and conferencing platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom are increasingly being used by sport to deliver online sessions to young people. It is important that organisation and clubs think about these platforms when writing your online safety policies and procedures to help address any additional safeguarding concerns that may arise.

This could include the following guidance:

  • children and young people use video platforms with a parent present
  • staff and volunteers have two members of staff dial in to virtual or video sessions (even if one is only observing)
  • young people are kept safe from exposure to inappropriate content by password protecting sessions
  • only the presenter can share their screen
  • meeting invites should not be shared publicly

We’ve developed some guidance on remote teaching and coaching.

Instant messaging apps

Online messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp can pose an increased risk to young people due to their private nature. Like text messages, content, images and videos can be shared privately, or in groups set up by users. These private messages could be used to bully or intimidate young people, expose them to inappropriate content or groom them for abuse.

Sports organisations and activity providers need to think about how they use these apps alongside public pages and profiles and how the use differs from those on public platforms. Messages should never be sent privately by a staff member to a young person.

It’s important that clear boundaries are set for adults on how they can use these apps to communicate with young members, and also how to respond to reports of bullying from other children. This guidance should be written into your online safety and social media policy and your acceptable use statement for children.

Related documents


The digital world is rapidly evolving – here, we highlight sport-specific resources for safeguarding children online, and point you towards the parts of the NSPCC website where you can keep up with what you need to know about online safety.

CPSU resources

Resources for young people and parents

Further NSPCC resources

Other useful resources and websites