Protecting vulnerable people on social media

The rise in popularity of social media has made interaction with people of various backgrounds and opinions easier than it has ever been before.

While this has revolutionised the way we connect with people, if used maliciously social media has the potential to harm vulnerable people in society – whether that’s through exploitation, harassment or even possible identity theft.

As such, it is important that those who moderate online forums take appropriate measures to safeguard vulnerable people on social media. But do these moderators require DBS Checks?

In this blog we’ll explain the risks that vulnerable people may face on social media, what safeguarding is required and what background checks people moderating online forums may need.

vulnerable people

What is social media?

 

A website, app or communication channel that allows users to create and share content can be considered a form of social media.

This can include:

  • Pictures
  • Text posts including blogging and statuses
  • Videos
  • GIFs
  • Personal messages

Examples of popular social media include:

  • Facebook / Facebook Messenger
  • YouTube
  • WhatsApp
  • WeChat
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Tik Tok
  • Reddit
  • Snapchat
  • Houseparty

With such a large variety of social media channels across the internet, monitoring and safeguarding for vulnerable people is important to ensure that they can browse the web without risks.

 

What are the risks?

 

While social media sites are unlikely to have been created with malicious intent, there are still several risks inherent in their use. This is especially likely for young or vulnerable people, who may be at a greater than normal risk of abuse.

Potential risks on social media can include:

  • Exploitation – Abuse, grooming, using for financial gain, blackmailing
  • Bullying / harassment – A survey conducted in 2018 found 47% of young people had experienced threatening or abusive messages on social media
  • Accidental or coerced sharing of personal information – could lead to theft or more targeted harassment

 

How can vulnerable people stay safe on social media?

 

There are ways in which caregivers can reduce the risks that vulnerable people may find on social media. This includes:

  • Exploring and enforcing privacy settings
  • Knowing who vulnerable people in your care may be messaging – and what they might be sending
  • Send evidence to the website or service operator if there’s any evidence of bullying
  • Reminding vulnerable people to:
    • Keep passwords and other valuable information to themselves
    • Be respectful to themselves and others online
    • Not to accept any contact requests from strangers
    • Be cautious if someone online wants to meet in the ‘real world’

Social media sites and services can help safeguarding vulnerable people by ensuring they have extensive privacy settings, as well as trustworthy moderation services. But do these moderators need DBS Checks?

 

DBS Checks and online forums

 

If someone is acting as a moderator of an online forum on a frequent basis, then they may be liable for a DBS Check. The circumstances of these checks can vary depending on the demographic of the forum:

  • If someone is moderating an online forum specifically for children on a frequent basis the can obtain an Enhanced DBS Check with a check against the children’s barred list
  • If someone is moderating an online forum for vulnerable adults, they can obtain an Enhanced DBS without a check against the barred list

 

Protecting vulnerable people on social media: conclusion

 

Protecting vulnerable people on social media should be a shared responsibility between caregivers, social media and anyone interacting. It’s important that vulnerable people feel as safe offline as they do on the internet.

If you want to know more about safeguarding on social media, get in touch with us today – we’d love to hear from you.