Jump to content

New BSA Social Media Guidelines!?

Recommended Posts


Not sure how many others have found this. It seems to be a break from policy of the past. Parts that do not make sense to me is that email, IM, and I would guess texting now possibly violate the no one on one provision unless three or more folks are included. Seems to make the job of being an adult leader that much harder. Next we will not be able to call Scouts on the phone without setting up a conference call.I would think that BSA would be interested in serving kids by meeting them with their choice of media. Email and other elctronic forms of communication are safer than traditional forms such as a telephone precisily because there is a record of them, enabling checks at both ends to ensure appropriateness. Am I the only one that thinks this? At some point youth leaders and their parents need to be able to trust the "capable selected adults" that serve as their leaders and mentors. If that is not the case then perhaps it is time to remove the adult association and leadership methods from the program.


I do not see it as my responsiblility as an adult leader to monitor my Scouts social networking, computer,and cell phone use in their home. I choose to use those mediums because they work. It is up to the boys parents to monitor their use of such things to ensure their safety. I surely watch over what my children are doing online and with the cell phone. I would hope that my Scouts share my conversations with their parents, but the onus seems to be on them not me or us (BSA).

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 37
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

The internet is a public place, but many of the forms of communication on the internet are like going into that public place's coatroom, turning off the lights, and locking the door. If you wouldn't do that to talk to a scout in person, don't do it on the internet.


Always protect yourself. It would be easy for a kid to alter an email you sent them, print it, and then report you. It may not hold up in the end, but you'll enjoy a good round of your name being dragged about in the mud. Is it really so hard to CC another adult leader on your communications with scouts?

Link to post
Share on other sites

many of the forms of communication on the internet are like going into that public place's coatroom, turning off the lights, and locking the door.


And turning on an infrared video camera and tape recorder and making a record of everything that happens in the room.


Internet communications seem far safer than phone communications. The guidelines as stated would appear to require no one-on-one phone calls, either. It states "electronic communication between adults and youth should always include one or more authorized adults openly copied" and phone calls are electronic communication.


They might as well state that all conversations have to be public - no one-on-one conversations with a Scout. This is way overkill.

Link to post
Share on other sites

You're assuming that one of the parties would bring the conversation to light.


In cases of abuse, how many times does the scout immediately tell people what happened?


How easy would it be for an abuser to use the internet, especially IM and texting, to keep the communication with that boy secret?


I'm aware of how IM's and texting work, but if you nobody but you and the boy are aware of the fact that you two are talking via these mediums, it becomes dangerous.


Abusers will not follow rules like that. If you're IM'ing a scout, take a minute to give the scout's parent a call to let them know what you're talking over with the boy.



Parent: Who are you texting?

Boy: Mr. Scoutmaster

Parent: Oh? Why?

Boy: No reason. (You know any child would say that)

Parent: Oh. Ok. Can I see your phone?

Boy: Why?


There is now a doubt as to the intent of your messaging the scout. It could have just been a reminder about tonight's meeting, but to that parent it could mean anything.



The majority of leaders want to have a meaningful mentoring relationship with their scouts.


Unfortunately, abusers would love to have people believe they have a meaningful mentoring relationship with young boys as a cover for the abuse that's occurring.


We need to do everything possible to ensure boys in our program are safe. There can be no secrets in scouting, especially when it comes to communications.

Link to post
Share on other sites

We need to do everything possible to ensure boys in our program are safe.


I disagree. The most comprehensive way to ensure no one in the program is ever molested would be to shut down the program. Short of that, we could hold all of our meetings in well-lighted gymnasiums and require at least five adults of each gender be present at all times. Never allow any Scout to have any private conversation with any adult.


We don't do "everything possible". What we do is try to come up with a set of guidelines that reduces the risk to a very low level, but is consistent with continuing to provide the program. Sure, trying to copy someone on every email can be reasonable for many situations. But when people are trying to do a lot of things and make sure everyone gets the word, and you don't have time to figure out how to copy someone on a text, or find another email address, I just fail to see the harm.


The thing that makes the internet conversations safer is that everyone knows it is possible that someone can bring them to light.


Actually, I think that it is beneficial to put the Scout on his own communicating with an adult, without a parent or someone else ready to help at every single instance. It's good for them to learn to communicate with adults.

Link to post
Share on other sites

They should definitely know how to communicate with adults.


They should also be able to interact one on one with adults.


They can do both of these things safely, it just requires the right medium.


There is no danger in a scout and a leader having a conversation on a bench in front of the trading post at camp. There is danger in a scout and a leader having a one on one conversation in the leader's van in the parking lot while everyone else is in the campsite.


When it comes to things that are fuzzier, like the internet, you need to account for the fact that the internet is the modern day wild west. It's convenient and easy to use and probably the most effective way to communicate with boys nowadays. However, it's also the most dangerous way to communicate with boys nowadays.


With all the "sexting" and "predators" and other scary things going on with technology today, it's natural the Scouts are going to have to make policies to protect kids, and I'm disappointed they didn't do so sooner.


My personal policy is to never "friend" a minor, never IM with a minor, and always CC an adult when emailing minors.


That may be too drastic, but I'd rather avoid the problem altogether. I know that if an adult was communicating with one of my children using texts, IM's, or emails that I would need to see those communications. Abusers will never follow the rules that are laid out, and so all we need are simple rules like making sure the parents are aware of all communications a scout leader has with a scout.


I don't consider myself overprotective, but it's just better to have no question when it comes to online safety.

Link to post
Share on other sites

oh dear this is getting rediculous.


A leader can't email scouts without including another adult. so basically to avoid the potential of getting an email from a scout and replying to the scout, the adults should only reply to the scout's parents, the scouts themselves don't get to communicate with adults directly.


text messaging really isn't covered well in this, but it is awkward when I don't do text messaging at all, yet my scout does, so he can't receive any txt messaging about scouts without including some other random adult?


I do think a policy that having scouts as facebook friends might be wishy washy but more for the fact that scouts don't really need to be getting all your status updates that may or may not be about scouting, and the way facebook keeps changing the privacy settings it's very likely to accidently see something publicly that you aren't supposed to have public.


Now what about the boy who just turned 18, and has been texting with his a teeny bit younger friends. all of a sudden he can no longer text them anymore, or only if they mention the word scouts in the txt?



Link to post
Share on other sites

Abusers will not follow rules like that. If you're IM'ing a scout, take a minute to give the scout's parent a call to let them know what you're talking over with the boy.


Under this hypothetical, if a Scout leader called me up and told me that he or she was going to be IMing my son about an upcoming camping trip, I'd probably have two near-simultaneous reactions: (1) "Well, he's right here, let me hand him the phone"; and (2) "Why isn't his Patrol Leader calling instead of you?"


I think all this gnashing of teeth really is making a mountain out of a molehill. It isn't a big deal to copy someone. Nor, would I wager, do many Scouters actually avail themselves of IMing and Facebook to contact a single Scout directly with any frequency. Using a Facebook group to disseminate information, sure. Sending out an email blast to the whole troop, yes.


The only two areas where I could really see this getting dicey would be communications between the SM and SPL, and between an OA chapter or lodge officer and his adviser.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yessir, I just happen to fit both of those Shortridge. I'm a Scoutmaster as well as an OA Adviser. II'll not say it is often I need to PM or text a youth but there are times. I use whatever communication medium that seems to work and for some youth that is IM through Facebook, others it is texting. Another thing puzzling about these new guidelines is their source: the marketing folks!

Link to post
Share on other sites

So Scoutmasters are now prohibited from being counselors, mentors, friends and someone a boy can talk to.


"Mr. Smith, I'm having some personal problems I'd really like your advice on."


"Sure Tommy, but first I need to find another adult, my attorney, someone from the Department of Social Services and a stenographer."


When did youth protection change to prohibit one-on-one communications between Scouts and adults? One of the big YP rules has always been when you need to speak privately with a Scout you should do so in an area out earshot of others, but still in plain view of other people.


Has that changed?


Or is this simply another example of BSA inability to write a rational policy? Please tell me they had an intern write this. I hate to think we paid someone for this level of work. This is all about National making things easy for them or covering their own butts. It does nothing to help units deliver a better or safer program to their Scouts.


What I know about Facebook or Twitter probably wouldn't fill an old 5-inch floppy disk. So someone please tell me why it is better to have everything totally open to the public? Isn't it better to have Scout communications and information in a password-protected area? Yes, I would question one adult having a private area with one or two Scouts, it just sounds creepy, but what's wrong with a page that only troop members, youth and adult, have access? Seems to me there is a much greater risk of an unknown predator contacting a Scout through a public site than a registered adult or parent doing something inappropriate on a troop-only page. Where do you feel your children are more safe? Hanging at the mall or at a troop meeting?

Link to post
Share on other sites

It appears to me that these guidelines were written for public "marketing" sites - like a council Facebook page, or such things. For those situations it seems reasonable.


To the extent that it appears to apply to unit operation, it is completely out-of-sync.


Our troop has a wide web of connections between adults and Scouts, on Facebook in particular. I have many Scouts as "friends" and it's a great view into their lives. I have texted Scouts. I've sent them individual messages. I respond to individual emails that come to me. I've had IM chats with Scouts on Facebook. We have a "private" yahoo group for the troop. Which is something that BSA recommends anyway - you don't necessarily want to put all of the details, names, places, dates, out there on a public site.


If I was working with Cub Scouts, I'd always copy the parents and rarely even have an electronic communication with the Scout. As the boys get older and join Boy Scouts, it feels more comfortable to copy the parents. But by the time the Scouts are 17 years old, they drive themselves around, they are applying to colleges - if they shoot me a quick email and ask when John's Eagle project is, I don't want to copy the parent on the response. I may as well say "I'm going to treat you like a child." One of the sensitivities that I've developed over time with all of troop operations is trying to keep various aspects age-appropriate. When our troop was mostly younger Scouts, we could do things one way. With many older kids now, we've made lots of adjustments.

Link to post
Share on other sites



What do you think a reasonable electronic communication with scouts policy should be at the unit level?


Can we write something to suggest to National that would come somewhere between anything goes, and this level of treating the scouts like babies? Obviously it would need to be different for different levels of scouting.


Cubs contact thru parents only?



I really prefer email and other electronic communication with scouts because it leaves a "paper trail." of course it's easy to edit something someone sends in email to make it say what the scout may want it to say to get someone in trouble.


Perhaps the unit could have an email address and any communications directly to scouts should be cc'd to that email address as "evidence" that nothing inappropriate was sent? of course my son's email address it set to automatically forward all his emails to my account, and I am comfortable with that level of security for my son. that would be an easy solution to always having an adult on the emails, but parents would be encouraged to do that level of protection themselves.


facebook and other social media BSA should just send a warning to adults to keep certain private life details as a scouter off of any facebook account interaction with scouts. that could be political discussions, say that you had a fight with your boss. or maybe the adults don't need to be friends, that the communication from the troop facebook page should be put up by the troop webmaster(a scout)?


txt messaging I'm still going with I don't need a copy of the txt messages my son gets from scouts or scouters. the sheer number of txts my son sends each month, well I just don't want to wade thru all of that even if I did have unlimited texting on my phone.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Logical question is do we need BSA to even formulate guidelines for this? Seems to me there are much more important discussions they should be having, such as how do we provide better service to units. How do we attract and retain boys of Scout age to our program? How do we fund better pay for youth camp staff without making our camps cost prohibitive? How do we fund our councils so that they are sustainable because frankly FOS does not seem to be working?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...