Feature: Simon Thornton
The purpose of this article is to empower British Cycling coaches to utilise social media in a safe, sensible and professional manner to promote cycling activity and avoid safeguarding issues.
Your role as a British Cycling coach is an important one, where you are responsible for the welfare of your riders and preparing them for coaching, training and competition. This can be made all the more easy for you by utilising social media to communicate with your riders.
Social media is becoming increasingly popular, particularly among young people. About one third of the UK population has a Facebook account. Concerns have been raised about the use of social media in sport. There have been cases where individuals have used it as a means of starting an inappropriate relationship, to bully or abuse. This can be avoided through effective management and implementing measures to safeguard users.
Clubs and coaches looking to use social media should consider the following points and may impose any reasonable measures they feel appropriate to uphold their own personal integrity and to promote the safety of their riders:
• Make the most of it - it is a great way to communicate and share team/coaching info.
• Set up a club/team specific profile page - encourage your riders to join this page and openly share appropriate information only as part of the group. No private discussions should take place, particularly between an adult and a young rider. Consider including parents in this too.
• Be responsible - lead by example; act as an ambassador for your team/club, region and cycling.
• Not all information is for sharing - this should only be cycling/team/club information. Nothing personal, private or inappropriate. Photos and videos may be fine, but only where parents and carers have specifically consented to this.
• Consider other users - will the posting cause offence? Is it appropriate for everyone who is on the site? A third party moderator should be involved; they should be DBS checked. This could be your Club Welfare Officer (CWO) or a member of your committee.
• Not everyone should be your friend - Being personal friends on social media with the young people whom you coach, teach etc is considered inappropriate and must be avoided due to the position of trust you are in. There are ways and means of using this type of medium and communicating with young people without it being on a personal level, for example, club Facebook pages, group emails etc. Consider your security and privacy settings.
• Take action - Misuse, bullying or abuse should be reported to the CWO, moderator or to the British Cycling Compliance Team. Misuse may contravene codes of conduct and be subject to disciplinary or legal action. If you do have any young riders as personal friends, then British Cycling strongly advises you to remove them from your profile.
• Sensible use - Create a guide and provide advice on appropriate use to your riders. Consider type of content/information/topics and the removal of inappropriate content. Ensure you and your riders think before posting to avoid any issues.
• Be transparent - Communications should only contain basic and relevant information, nothing personal or inappropriate. Copy in a third party to promote transparency, such as parents, the moderator or your CWO. Think- would anyone think my messages were inappropriate?
• Parents/carers - should consent to and be aware that their children will be communicating with you through these tools. They should be encouraged to be included in these messages also.
This is not an exhaustive list and any other reasonable measures should be taken to protect you and your riders. Whilst the above is guidance for the use of social media, similar considerations should be given to the use of text messaging, emails and instant messaging to contact your riders. Further guidance is available from British Cycling here and from the CPSU here .
If you have any queries on this or any other questions regarding safeguarding and the welfare of your riders, please contact the Compliance Team on 0161 274 2000.