Social Media, Organisations and Vulnerable Adults

  • Interactive social media has revolutionalised the way people connect and communicate. Nevertheless, the use of social networking sites also introduces a range of potential safeguarding risks to vulnerable adults.

    Vulnerable adults are people who are at a greater than normal risk of abuse.

    Older people are vulnerable especially those who are frail, unwell, confused and are subject to immobility and are unable to keep track of their affairs.

    Other vulnerable adults include those open to abuse because of learning difficulties, physical difficulties or mental illness.

    Vulnerable adults should be encouraged to make decisions that will promote their social media safety.

    Potential Risks:

    • Online bullying;
    • Posting personal information that can locate a vulnerable adult online;
    • Exploration and abuse contacts with strangers;
    • Exposure to inappropriate content;
    • Involvement in making or distributing illegal/inappropriate content;
    • Exposure to encouragers of self-harm or racist and hate material.

    What organisations should do:

    Plan a social media strategy

    • Assess what you want to achieve with social media and how ready you are to go ahead.
    • Decide whether you are principally aiming to interact with users, or publish information, or both.
    • Consider which types of digital media you want to use and how to integrate them with traditional media.

    Consider the potential safeguarding implications of the chosen medium

    • Add online safeguarding issues to your current strategy, policies and procedures for safeguarding and child protection, retention and management of personal information, use of photographs, and codes of conduct/behaviour.
    • Organisational reporting procedures should also include the reporting of potentially illegal/abusive content or activity.

    Decide who will manage your social media

    • Decide who will be responsible for setting up, managing and moderating (overseeing / reviewing /responding to posted content) your web page or profile.
    • This person/organisation will oversee the content that appears and will have online contact with vulnerable adults who interact with your webpage or profile.
    • Ensure the manager understands online safeguarding issues, including warning signs of grooming and sexual exploitation.

    Figure out what services you want to use

    • Once you've identified the service you want to use (e.g. Facebook), make sure you're up to speed with the way this service operates, and the potential safeguarding implications for vulnerable adults before setting up your presence.
    • Specifically, you should look at privacy and safety tools, the terms of service (these will usually cover acceptable and unacceptable behaviour), and how users can contact the service if they have a concern or complaint.

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