Scouting Tech: Youth Protection in a Virtual World

It seems to me that social distancing has brought the world closer than ever, from apartment complexes in Italy and China singing in concert, to authors performing Facebook Live readings for the masses, singers and songwriters performing free concerts from home, artists sharing tutorials so we can release our collective creativity, educators hosting live classes and providing our students with more materials than could ever be imagined so they can stay on track, and anyone with a sewing machine making face masks to share with medical professionals on the front line all over the world.

Human beings are just the coolest! We really get things done!

Scouting is, in no way, left behind. Our program has flourished in the wake of the coronavirus; we are, afterall, a bunch of adventurous survivalists who have been training for this our whole lives… even the Lions! It’s like Bear Grylls said,

Above all, Scouts never give up! Despite the space between us, we still find ways to come together. Incredibly, we live in a time where programs that connect us are readily available and, most of the time, free to use.

Hey, leaders! Can you imagine what this situation would’ve been like for us when we were kids? We’d be neck deep in mud pies, out of the loop, and pretty unsure about it all. These days, it’s as easy as picking up the nearest readily-available device and clicking a link.

Check out my posts Scouting Tech: Online Conferencing Tools for Virtual Meetings and Cub Scout Activities: How to Run a Virtual Pack Meeting for ways to make this possible for the Scouts in your unit.

Just because we have an opportunity to host virtual meetings and see our Scouts online, that doesn’t mean the basics go out the window. These meetings should be treated and conducted in the same way any in-person meeting would be, and that means Youth Protection absolutely MUST be in the forefront of your mind.

Train Your Leadership Team

Members of your leadership team MUST complete Youth Protection Training every two years. I cannot suggest enough having your Key 3 or delegate go into the My.Scouting.org Training Manager to pull a YPT Status report. Look at your team and see who needs this training and who is nearing expiration, and let those people know that right now is the time to get this done.

Encourage Parents / Legal Guardians to Complete Youth Protection

Anyone can create a My.Scouting.org profile and complete youth protection training. Many units require parents / legal guardians to take the training courses online so that every single adult understands the policies and procedures of the unit, how leaders and Scouts are expected to behave, and what signs of abuse we should be looking for.

Encourage Youth to Complete Protect Yourself Rules Adventures and/or Cyber Chip

Our children are entering a world where all of their normal activities and responsibilities are being converted, very quickly, into virtual versions of what they’re used to. Doors are opening left and right for innovation and invention, but not everyone has helpful intent. Per Scouting.org,

The Boy Scouts of America is committed to creating safe environments for Scouts and leaders. Child abuse is an uncomfortable topic but an important one for us to cover to ensure the safety and well-being of our Scouts. The Boy Scouts of America has partnered with subject-matter experts from the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center Foundation to present the “Protect Yourself Rules” that help children recognize, respond to, and report abuse.

With adventures for each rank, Lion through AOL, these new Protect Yourself Rules “preview adventures” are the complement of the adult youth protection training. They teach Scouts about safe and unsafe touch, trusted adults, personal space, saying no, stranger danger, cyberbullying, unsafe behaviors online, and more.

Did you know that Scouts can complete the Protect Yourself Rules in place of the Cyber Chip? It’s true! I still suggest doing both as they have their own merits and, well, you can never be TOO well trained.

It’s Virtual, But It’s In Their Home

It’s absolutely imperative that Scout leaders remember that this virtual world will often take them into the homes, and sometimes the bedrooms, of the children we swear to protect. With computers and tablets sitting on their personal desks, there are glimpses of their lives that are normally separate from our Scouting experience. Your youth protection training is paramount!

If Scouts are participating, they MUST do so alongside their parents / legal guardians and in a room that is not their bedroom.

Do you know the Three R’s of Youth Protection?

  • Recognize anyone that could be an abuser
  • Respond when someone is doing something that goes against your gut or against the safety guidelines
  • Report attempted or actual abuse or any activity that you think is wrong to a parent / legal guardian or other trusted adult

When using a virtual conferencing app to hold your meetings, you and your Scouts have the ability to send chat messages back and forth. You will invariably receive a chat text that comes just to you from a Scout.

  • Unless there is a parent / legal guardian at their side participating, do not answer private chat messages from a Scout
  • If they are telling you something is wrong at home, call 911 and report it immediately to 1-844-SCOUTS1 and / or report it online using Incident Reporting, then reach out to your local Scout Executive
  • Visit https://www.scouting.org/training/youth-protection/ to learn more

Scouting’s Barriers to Abuse covers digital privacy in depth. A few common sense reminders for initiating a virtual meeting that will likely take you into the home and/or bedroom of a child include:

  • Two registered leaders, 21 years of age or older, are required to be in that meeting or virtual activity
  • There must be a registered female in that meeting or virtual activity if a female Scout is in attendance
  • The meeting MUST be conducted with the knowledge and permission of their parent and / or legal guardian
  • Any request for private communications (to include a message in chat, IM, text, etc.) MUST include another registered leader AND the Scouts parent or legal guardian
  • Adult leaders are responsible for monitoring the behavior of Scouts as they participate in these virtual meetings and intervene as necessary
  • Cyberbullying is not tolerated

When the meeting ends, make sure you officially end it for everyone so you are not at any time alone in the virtual meeting with an unsupervised Scout. There will be Scouts who are so happy to see their den mates that will try to beg you to leave it open so they can continue to talk, but you absolutely must end the meeting. The good news is, they’ve now learned how to use some cool technology, can create meetings of their own, and will do just that. For everyone’s protection, don’t give them an opportunity to ask; I cannot stress this enough – just end the meeting when it’s over.

Meeting Recordings

Many of these online conferencing programs allow for meetings to be recorded. Ask permission from your families before you do this. It’s vitally important that you respect the privacy of their home. If you get permission to record, do not use a Scouts last name. If there is information on the recording that shouldn’t be made public, edit your video first and use a fine-toothed comb to ensure that what you post is appropriate. Watch it several times and ask yourself if it’s absolutely necessary and completely safe. If you don’t have any useful purpose for a recording, just don’t do it.

AGAIN! If Scouts are participating, they must do so alongside their parents / legal guardians and in a room that is not their bedroom.

Additional Security Measures

Not everyone is a Scout; there are people out there in the world looking for opportunities to create havoc wherever they can. Unfortunately, it’s becoming commonplace to have a meeting hacked by someone with ill-intent, which is inconvenient at best and extremely upsetting at worst. Virtual conferencing programs have security measures available to protect the youth in your meetings from these types of attacks.

  • When you create your meeting, choose a one-time unique ID.
  • Require a meeting password.
  • Create a “waiting room”.
  • Select “only hosts can share screen”.
  • Establish and share etiquette rules and kick out unruly attendees.

Learn more about virtual conference hacking (‘Zoom Bombing’) at CyberGuy.com.

The “Zoom Meeting Settings” (PDF) by Helen Son is another EXCELLENT reference for Zoom-specific settings to help lock down your meetings further.

Please Note

This posting is not in any way a substitute for official Youth Protection training. It’s sole purpose is to put this important part of our training into your brain as you find thoughtful and interesting ways of filling in the gaps left behind from what should be in-person meetings and activities. This is all very much the bare bones minimum of what should be taken into consideration as you plan your events and thoughtfully consider who will be in attendance. Seize this opportunity to bend and learn new things, encourage families to participate, seek out new ways of presenting program materials, but do it all with their safety and your protection in mind.

Now is our chance to show Scouting and the world at large that this generation of Scout Leadership is in it for all the right reasons, properly trained, and trustworthy. Complete your training, educate your Scouts and their families, and Scout On!

Yours in Scouting,
Cubmaster Rebekah

Published by Look Wider Still

Rebekah is the mother of two wonderful sons, Michael and Nate. She and her husband, Mike, married in 2002 and have built their family on a foundation of adventure. Between geocaching, camping, hiking, cooking, fishing, crafting, reading, and snuggling their Irish Terrier, Bentley, they enjoy a long and happy career in Scouting. The boys come from a long line of Scouters, including Eagles on all sides. Mike has served as assistant den leader, treasurer, and Pack Committee member, and Rebekah has served as den leader and Cubmaster for Pack 521 out of Mechanicsville, Virginia. LookWiderStillBlog@gmail.com

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