How to keep children safe in online classes
Updated: Jan 4
The world is beginning to open back up at different rates in different places. Some gyms and studios are back running classes and teams, while others remain closed, with no foreseeable start date. Coaches and teachers have had to learn rapidly how to adapt to the new situation, and for many this has meant taking their classes online.
If you are running online tutorials (particularly ones where the participants can be seen by you on a live feed, such as Zoom), your Safeguarding and Child Protection policies should be updated to incorporate guidelines for participation, and coaches need to be given clear guidance on how to conduct sessions. Here’s Squad Safe’s top tips for keeping your squad safe online…
Suggested updates to your Safeguarding policy
The types of thing you should look to include in your policy updates (and also in a waiver/learning agreement with the participant) are
Permission to be online from a parent/guardian
What locations for webcams are acceptable or unacceptable (you might want to stipulate that they must be in a communal space like a living room - rather than a bedroom, or perhaps that whatever space they're in must have a door open)
Suitable locations for webcams in terms of appropriate amounts of space – so participants don’t injure themselves on furniture
Whether younger children must have an adult present while participating
Make clear to participants that all the same safeguarding policies apply as would in the gym - appropriate language and behavior etc
What type of thing might you report online as a coach or teacher?
The same protocol should apply to reporting an incident online as you would in the gym, but additionally you should include information on how coaches/teachers will report anything they witness on a camera - and train them on what to do in this event. Scenarios you /your coach might report could include:
A child inappropriately dressed, or in a state of undress on camera
A child that makes inappropriate comments on camera, or who makes a disclosure of abuse to a coach on camera
Anything else you might witness that raises concerns regarding abuse (including, but not limited to: the behavior of another individual in the home that is witnessed on camera, something you can see in the room that raises a safeguarding concern such as drug paraphernalia)
How to report
With regards to how you make a report, this should be discussed and agreed with your Designated Safeguarding Officer, but similar protocol should apply as would in the gym - you may just need to look at how you plan to use secure channels of sending information to them (encrypted email/password protected documents etc), if you are unable to hand a report to them in person.
Understand the safety features of your online platform
Make sure your staff are aware of how to modify the various settings on their online platform to ensure you keep the children safe in the class. For Zoom, things like knowing how to use the waiting room facility, turn off the screen sharing and comments option for guests, and the function to “mute all” are musts! This great article from business consultant Tony Lynch give some more detail on the technical elements and pitfalls:
Covering your online activity on social media
Understandably there has been a trend for coaches to photograph their screens during classes - posting it on social media to show participants taking part. You need to be very careful when doing things like this, as most online platforms will have the name of the participant in the corner of their screen, therefore identifying their name alongside their image (as well as potentially showing off additional identifying features, such as the inside of their bedroom)
Some coaches and teachers have found such success with their online sessions, that they intend to continue them once back in the studio/gym as an optional extra. This is great to hear, as additional online classes such as home stretching or conditioning could potentially become a welcome income stream, as well as a way to keep vulnerable young people who are still home shielding engaged and part of the class.