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Guidelines for Virtual Youth Programming (pdf download)

The guidance below is intended to support Auburn University units with developing and implementing virtual programming for youth participants (under age 19). Recommendations are offered as best practices and should not be construed as official university policy.

Please visit Risk Management and Safety's Youth Protection Program Page to register youth programs/activities (including virtual camps) and review current policies related to youth programming at Auburn University (including standards of behavior for program personnel). 

Additional guidance on how to plan and operate virtual camps can be found in the step-by-step guide provided by the American Camp Association (ACA).

Select a communication method your staff will use with participants.

Look for communication tools that do not allow for private, un-monitored interactions, such as:

  • Shared @auburn.edu email addresses
  • Program sponsored Facebook pages or other social media profiles

 

Enable available security features.

Zoom is the university supported technology with security features to protect youth privacy and strengthen safety. Best practices for securing a Zoom classroom can be found here

For example, in Zoom you can:

  • require a unique password to join a meeting,
  • enable the “waiting room” feature to give meeting organizers control over who joins the meeting,
  • disable screen sharing by non-hosts,
  • lock a meeting once all known participants join,
  • disable the chat and group messaging features to limit communication to only between the camper and counselor,
  • restrict joining to only @auburn.edu participants, and/or
  • turn off file transfers.

Additional information on securing remote teaching through Zoom can be found here.

Design program activities to eliminate private, un-monitored 1:1 interactions.

  • For example, when using Zoom, ensure there will always be two background checked and trained staff members in each video session.
  • Plan ahead to ensure the rule of three is observed and include this requirement in your communications to parents.
  • Provide an agenda outlining the activities of the Program including the times, days, and how to access content.
  • Collect registration information such as participant name, address, phone number, parents/guardian(s) name(s), phone number(s) and email(s).
  • Provide a supply list and recommendations for setting up the homework space to help participants fully engage in the program.
  • Take attendance and only allow registered participants to participate.
  • Only communicate with participants through official Program platforms.
  • Ensure that two or more Program staff are present for the duration of the program.
  • Keep conversations and interactions focused on the Program goals and objectives.
  • Create an environment where everyone is welcomed and given the opportunity to succeed.
  • Ensure that all participants are treated with dignity, fairness, and respect. Harassment will not be tolerated. Hazing of any kind is prohibited. Cyber-bullying is prohibited.
  • Address problems that are brought to the program’s attention.
  • Do not share personal information, email, or social media accounts with minor participants.

Participants at a minimum should:

  • Participate in the digital environment to the same standard as a physical environment, including participating when called on, listening attentively, and minimizing distractions to others.
  • Not share links or passwords for Program meetings or content.
  • Challenge themselves to engage, be present and learn.
  • Complete assigned projects on time.
  • Request help if needed.
  • Mute when not talking.
  • Dress appropriately when on video.
  • Not take inappropriate screenshots or images.

Integrate online conduct expectations into your existing staff conduct code.

  • Limit virtual contact to purposes consistent with the program’s mission and/or for a clear educational, developmental, or health related purpose, in the presence of another staff member, and with the consent of the youth.
  • Conduct all virtual interactions in a manner that promotes safety and complies with the general contact guidance outlined in the Standards, including:
    • Observing the Rule of Three in online meetings and all other virtual communications.
    • Using only program-sponsored email, phone, video conferencing, or social media platforms.
    • Avoiding text and electronic one-on-one communication between a single staff person and a youth. Instead, use technologies and platforms which are accessible by multiple staff members (e.g., a shared email inbox or a group chat functionality) and/or a youth’s parent. 
    • Not engaging in purposeful communication or contact including phone or electronic communication or social networking with youth outside of sanctioned program activities.
  • Treat all youth equitably, including ensuring equitable access to and support for any technology needed to fully participate in program activities. More information on accessibility can be found here: https://www.acacamps.org/resource-library/coronavirus/virtual-program/accessibility-virtual-programs
  • Proactively address harassment, bullying or other inappropriate conduct of youth participants. 
  • Never share sexually explicit online content with youth.
  • Never record youth’s images or interactions with youth, except if explicitly allowed by your program and with all requisite consents in place. This includes video recordings of online interactions, screen captures, screenshots, or creating other photo or video records of youth.
  • Never share personally identifiable information of youth without the requisite consents in place. Be mindful of your online presence and the content shared publicly via your social media or other platforms.
  • Ensure online and virtual interactions are conducted via safe, known platforms that limit risks to youth participants.

 

Address program-specific considerations in your staff training.

Topics to consider addressing include:

  • What do 1:1 interactions look like in an online environment? How are they different from in-person interactions? What additional risks do they pose? What additional preparations need to be made to ensure 1:1 interactions do not happen?
  • How can staff set and maintain appropriate boundaries online? For example, communicate your ‘on’ hours to participants and their families and strictly avoid ‘off-hours’ contact. 
  • The importance of using official University accounts at all times for program activities and communicating with participants. What might be challenging about using shared accounts and how can you overcome those challenges to ensure transparency youth safety?

 

Engage with staff around conduct code violations or general concerns.

  • Have ongoing conversations with all program staff about how the program is running, and specifically address virtual interactions.
  • Solicit and address any group concerns.
  • Monitor methods of communication for program staff and participants to ensure safe and appropriate interactions. Immediately address any concerning behaviors or violations of the conduct code.
  • Make sure staff are trained on security features of selected technology platform and discuss scenarios that may arise requiring them to act (i.e. inappropriate communication, “Zoom-bombing”, etc.)

Inform

  • Educate parents about the technology you are using and how youth will interact with them, and encourage parents to discuss online safety with their children.
  • Reiterate parents are responsible for monitoring their child’s time online and that program staff are not responsible for nor able to monitor this with distance learning.
  • Consider sharing resources (such as those below) with families.
  • Parents should understand that they are responsible for
    • Ensuring participant is in an environment that meets the goals of the Program
    • Ensuring participant logs in on time and is prepared
    • Limiting distractions and keeping participant safe throughout the duration of the Program
    • Allowing time for the participant to complete required assignments
    • Working with Program staff to resolve issues that may arise
    • Reporting illegal or inappropriate online behavior by staff or other program participants

 

Get consent

  • Ensure you solicit consent for participation in online youth programming.
  • Provide details about how, when and by what means youth will be interacting virtually with your program.

 

Enlist parental supervision

Suggest parents/guardians be present in the room with participants during online engagement or programming. This is especially important for camp sessions that require physical activity or the use of safety or other personal protective equipment (i.e. STEM-related activities).

  • Campers’ sign-in information should only display first name and last initial to protect the camper’s identity.
  • Promote the use of virtual backgrounds to allow for more privacy for counselors and campers.
  • Set defaults so all campers are on "mute", with campus un-muted individually by the counselor when there are questions or discussion comments. 

Online Resources

The following online resources may be useful in planning and promoting safe virtual experiences for youth, but are not affiliated with, sponsored by, or endorsed by Auburn University. The list below has been adapted from a list originally created by Oregon State University.

 

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