If you are running Alpha or Alpha for Youth online, please take ensure you are aware of safety issues and competent to deal with them.
An increasing number of Alphas are being run online, and may be difficult to monitor. We encourage hosts to work in trusted pairs with support from helpers.
Use safety measures such as password protecting your meetings, secure Wifi, being conscious of what can be seen on your screens, and ensuring that sessions are never recorded.
Cyber bullying and online grooming are serious problems that hosts and helpers can help avoid.
Maintain a Safe Environment
- Use a leadership style that suits the needs of the whole group. Model good practice in your own online behaviour.
- Be the first to arrive at your Alpha session and the last to leave.
- Keep your video on for the whole session, and encourage your group to have their videos on too.
- Be aware of your surroundings, including what and who can be seen in your video screen. Have a background that is welcoming and not too busy.
- Ask permission from each person before creating a text or Whatsapp group.
- Keep video calls, texting and messaging to appropriate times of day.
- Think before you post and behave with the same respect online that you would in person. Once the information is online it can be difficult, if not impossible, to remove.
- Communicate clearly and unambiguously. Use social media for information, such as group reminders, rather than conversation.
- Share only what you feel comfortable to share. Don’t be pressured into doing or sharing anything you do not to. If you feel uncomfortable about any communication or behaviour, online or offline, contact the lead person at your church, school or organisation.
- Promise confidentiality you can’t guarantee.
- Allow your Alpha courses to be recorded.
- Allow guests to be in the online space without a host or helper present.
- Post anything that you wouldn’t be happy for others to read.
- Share contact details without permission.
- Take, post or tag photos of people without asking them first.
- Post photos of young people without parental permission.
- Pressure others into sharing anything that they may later regret.
- Get into deep and meaningful chats online or by text – keep conversations within a group setting.
- Alpha hosts should not follow young or vulnerable people back on Snapchat or by private message, or share their story personally with young people.
Matters for concern may include:
- Someone’s conversation or messages suggest they are at risk of abuse, experiencing abuse, or mentally unwell.
- The message or image someone shares is inappropriate.
- A person has become too dependent on you.
- A young person is hiding emails or texts, being contacted by unknown adults, or receiving gifts from people they don’t know.
What to do:
- Do not close down conversations; this could erase evidence. Screen shot where possible, and save any conversations by copying and pasting into a document. Include dates.
- Inform your church leader, Alpha course leader or the person in charge of the protection of vulnerable people as soon as possible.
- If you believe someone is in danger, call the appropriate emergency number.