Safety in Virtual Learning Environments

February 24, 2021

In this short video, you will learn about best practices and policies around youth safety in virtual settings, explore strategies to maintain youth safety when programming virtually, and resources that are helpful.
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Video Transcript

For today's short video, we are going to cover best practices around participant, both youth and adults safety in virtual settings. Strategies to maintain participant safety when programming virtually resources that are helpful for you as volunteers when planning virtual programs. So why is participant safety, particularly youth safety important in virtual settings. First, we are sharing information about youth, an online environment, and that information is harder to control who sees it and what they do with that information. Other people can use that information to their advantage. The more people that know something about a person, the more easy it is to take advantage of them. As organizations that focus on positive youth development. We need to be aware of the children's online privacy protection act and use that as a guide to the decisions we make and how much information we share about others online. Depending on the virtual environment, people can pretend to be someone they are not. And through the different best practices and policies, we can work to reduce that. We are proud of the youth and the participants that are in our programs, which is why as parents, caring adults, and staff, we choose to share information about others virtually. But that information can translate to others knowing a lot about a person. without actually knowing that person, take a moment to consider what happens if you share. If what you share ends up in the wrong hands. Therefore, it's important to always think about how much information we are collecting and sharing about others and virtual environments. This could increase the chances someone might use that information to groom a child. Predators will work to groom and groom children as a means to gain a child's trust and create situations and opportunities to abuse or hurt children. Grooming includes intentional actions and behaviors of potential predator might use to gain access to a child in order to molest or sexually abused them. You may think that predators pick child victims at random, or that you should be the most concerned about stranger danger. In most cases, child sexual abuse is the abusers known to the child and as someone who has some sort of relationship with the child. Predators often attempt to groom children adult or communities, or try to create situations where they may have access to hurt or abuse a child with a decreased chance of getting caught. It's important that adults are aware of the ways that potential predators try to gain access to children. Grooming doesn't happen overnight. It takes time, it starts small and works its way into bigger things. Predators can use the information that they gather and virtual environments as part of their grooming process, because it allows for them to become known and trusted and can more easily identify children that are vulnerable. Some virtual platform best practices include Make sure you have a two deep adult presence of an MSU Extension staff member and/ or registered gold or silver volunteer for the duration of the program, sometimes internet goes out, and this allows another adult to be present during the program. The other adult should help monitor the chat box Q and a, body language and emotions of participants in what is going on in the background of the participants. In consideration of participant safety, whenever possible, all instruction sessions must be secured with a password. Turn off private chat box options, screen-sharing, whiteboards, file transfer features and other features that allow participants to communicate in an unmonitored fashion to prevent participants from sending pictures or other content over the in meeting chat feature. If any of these features are required for the instruction, ensure that the feature is safe and monitored by adults. Mute all participants to prevent unauthorized interruptions at the beginning of the program. ensure for all online programming links are only provided for intended participants and their parents and guardians do not publicly advertise the instruction sessions and links and passwords. If possible, registration for youth should be used as often as possible and only then provide and passwords for instruction platforms by invitation to those who have registered to participate, have a plan for what you'll do if you see something inappropriate with a participant or others in their home. Just like in face to face programming participant safety is important. If you see something for youth, asked privately or tried to determine if the youth the safe if the answer is no, report your concerns to your local 4H program coordinator to develop a plan to contact the local police department. As always, if you need help with technology, safety support or a second adult, please reach out to your local MSU Extension staff for photos and videos. It is important to limit identifiable details. Consider how much and what types of personal information are being shared. For youth don't share hometown, age, school, or parents name. It is best practice to share only the first Name and 4-H club. If sharing photos on a social media platform don't directly tag participants in the post if they choose to, that as their decision. Always make sure you have a media release for any photos and videos that are being shared. It is then respectful to ask people if they are comfortable with the photo or video that is being shared with youth, you can empower them to create the content, to post and choose the image. Remember, online photos and videos have permanency and create a legacy. Everything shared online has the potential for becoming a permanent part of history. Even if you delete a video or photo, they can easily be recovered and shared as photos and videos can become a permanent part of history. Consider who else might see this information once the virtual learning experience is complete, such as potential employers, college admission officers, scholarship selection committees, etc. Distractions such as articles of clothing, background items the viewer can see, and noises that occurred and videos can detract from there. Communication should be clear and effective. Be sure the photo and video quality is good. Double-check for proper grammar and misspellings. Have another person double-check photos and videos to be sure that what a submitted as high-quality and free of mistakes. When thinking about recording live virtual program, it's important to consider the same framework as planning a face-to-face program 4-H has the opportunity to teach life skills, scheduling, time, management, responsibility, and real life. We don't get recordings of events we've missed. In addition, it's hard to watch them and interact with them. And when we do receive them, they are often longer than a person wants to pay attention to a video. We also want to consider that we are creating learning environments where we want participants to feel safe so they can learn questions and be themselves. Recording a program often inhibits its process. For these reasons, recording is not advised and require certain steps and permissions and put to be in place before recording, please work with your local MSU Extension staff member. If you, if you think a need arises for recording and you have a question. Now, in addition, there is value that and a need to create online content that participants can choose to view on their own schedule. Consider creating short videos that focus on how 2's demonstrations. Rather short pieces of information that can help youth engage in a project. For example, demonstrations, doing a dog agility course, mixing up your favorite recipe, how to do a craft technique or animal hair care. We all, and think about ways to creatively program with program participants who might not have internet, the strongest bandwidth, access to a computer or two screens, access to sound through a technology platform, and might not have video capabilities. Some examples might include creating a group thread or text. Sending letters are mailings to participant homes. Creating a Google doc or Google Jam board where participants can go and respond at a later date and time. Assigning a game like Kahoot or quizzes that can be played individually at a more convenient time, creating short recordings of a demonstrations to share and then have others use the short video to practice or make items at home. Create mini challenges. Scavenger hunts that are shared and texts, Google Docs or emails. Michigan State University Extension has created a variety of resources that can assist you in developing a program or creating your own policies around virtual safety for youth and adult participants. Including tools around planning a virtual program, keeping you safe virtually Social Media and texting policies and creating safe environments for youth. Thank you for watching this video. We hope you learned something new today and wish you success in your virtual program.