Going Online with Youth
In the last year, the way in which programs interact with youth has changed, but it’s important to understand that our risk responsibility has not. As programs navigate the technological landscape for connecting with your participants online, we want to encourage you to remember that the standards of risk management remain the same whether in person or in a virtual Campus Program for Minors.
Understanding the Requirements
The first step is to contact University Youth Programs. Each program will receive individualized risk assessments and specific information on what rules and regulations will still apply based on your programs activities. Depending on the specifics of each program’s individual use of online platforms, a program may be required to complete a CPM Application or Events with Minors Application, Child Protection Training, Waivers, Background Checks, and other risk mitigation requirements. Remember that CPM Rules and Guidelines still apply and there are additional privacy and online risk management issues that should be addressed and documented for the safety of youth. Please contact University Youth Programs discuss the details of how your program will be moving online via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For risk management beyond the regular youth protection requirements, please see the Privacy and Online Care of Youth sections on this page.
Choosing the Right Platform
In order to ensure that you are following all university rules and SAPs, your program must use a platform that is under contract with Texas A&M and has been reviewed for privacy and security elements. There are several platforms that have already gone through the contract review process, and are being used by departments already. We recommend you reaching out within your departments and colleges to find out about options for online program delivery.
One of the most visible and highly used platforms is ZOOM. There are multiple ways to use ZOOM, and the platform is TAMU Approved. If you have not had the opportunity to review the settings, we highly recommend you familiarize yourself with your options on Zoom. You will find helpful information on Zoom practices below:
- Zoom’s Guide to Rolling out Virtual Classroom
- Zoom’s Best Practices for Securing Your Virtual Classroom
- TAMU Youth Program Zoom Recommended Settings
- TAMU Zoom – Frequently asked questions
- Zoom and FERPA Compliance
When selecting a platform, configuring the settings, and preparing the content for the online presentation of your programs, accessibility should be a high priority. Please be aware that there are potential accommodations that will need to be made in an online capacity, just like in-person activities. One example of accessibility that programs should consider is the ability for video conferencing platforms to provide accurate captions to instructions and/or conversations occurring in real time. Zoom uses an API (Application Programming Interface) called Rest to live stream the closed captions of audio for zoom meetings and webinars. The Division of Information Technology has provided resources for IT Accessibility that will be beneficial to all programs. For more information, see the links below:
The widespread use of online interactions occurring in the place of in-person activities adds an additional layer of risk. The myriad of unique risk exposures from the use of online platforms includes those specific to privacy and protections of identities and personal information to name a few. Here are requirements, tips, and resources for programs to utilize to mitigate such risks:
Requirements for online youth interaction include the following:
- Disable the ability for participants to record all online sessions. For more information on this, see TAMU’s Youth Programs Zoom Recommended Settings.
- There should be no less than 2 staff members present per zoom room or equivalent in other platforms.
- Do not publish or disclose full names of participants during the sessions. Ex: Prior to the start of the program, the hosts of ZOOM can bring up a list of participants in the “waiting room” and change the visible name in order to only use first names
- The online platform you choose must be approved for use by Texas A&M University.
- Use a password for each session. The password should not be published in the meeting invitation. Send it in a separate email to participants who confirm they will attend.
- Remember that while the communication is online, treating it like any classroom or in person venue is important. Put things in place to protect your intellectual property, manage the interaction of participants, and follow all university rules.
- Disable the ability for participants to change their own names or the names of others participating.
- If you choose to record your session as the host, please be sure to review the recording before sharing publicly. Be sure to edit and/or remove any content that may be a negative reflection on your participants, your program, and Texas A&M University.
- If you allow for virtual backgrounds, be sure to set clear expectations about content of the backgrounds. Disable the ability for participants to change virtual backgrounds of others.
- Mute participants when not in active discussions.
Risk Management Documentation
Online Care of Youth
While the landscape of youth programs has changed, the risk responsibility is still high. When planning your move to an online platform, please remember to document all the excellent risk mitigation plans you put in place for the duration of your program and each session’s specific activities.
Staff Expectations Online
One of the best places to start is by training your team a high standard for supervising youth online. This is a key element to risk management, and depending on the format you choose to use, we recommend the following training topics:
- Using age appropriate language
- No tolerance of bullying
- Background image standards, and reminder for staff to check their surroundings if they aren’t using a background image
- Punctuality and staying online for the predetermined amount of time for the program
- Any program specific information your staff will need to know before beginning their online presence with youth
We encourage you to consider creating a Behavioral Agreement the staff can sign that shows they’ve been trained and understand your expectations.
Additionally, the staff should be trained to report any behavior issues or incidents that occur during the session. It is also the program’s responsibility to provide a way for participants or parents/guardians to report any incident or activity they feel should be shared with the program sponsor. Once received from staff or participants, these reports are required to be submitted to UYP within 24 hours of occurring. As a reminder, even in an online capacity all Texas A&M staff are mandatory reporters, so program staff should be aware of the steps taken if there is suspected abuse or neglect.
Program sponsors can find multiple resources on understanding the online risk landscape they will need to mitigate. University Youth Programs recommends TAMU online youth programs to set the following standards while planning program procedures.
- Create a plan that allows for no less than two staff members to be present during all sessions with youth.
- Both in a physical and virtual space, 1 to 1 correspondence should not occur. Practices that can reinforce this include ensuring a parent/guardian or additional program staff are included on correspondence with youth.
It is important to remember that no communication should occur on a one to one ratio!
As you move forward with your planning and implementation of online programs with youth, please remember to contact University Youth Programs. UYP can help you navigate through which requirements are needed for your program and how best to continue the high standard of youth protection expected of our programs at Texas A&M University.