Should you be an online ‘Friend’ with young people in Scouting?

When working with young people there will always be a ‘relationship’ formed; a relationship of trust, a connection, a friendship.

Young people will look up to their leaders, they will feel they can talk to them should they need any advice or have any concerns, they trust their leaders to help them when they are in need, Leaders are the first point of call when things go wrong.

In Scouting we are members of a world wide family, a global friendship, a friendship where we can walk up to anyone in a necker, even at the other side of the world, and be welcomed, we have a common bond – Scouting.

We don’t always know the people who we meet who are dressed in Scout uniform, but just seeing the uniform, we feel we already have a level of trust.

The online world could be seen as the world wide family of Scouts, friendships can be formed in seconds, just like meeting a fellow Scout for the first time, however, in the online world, just a few seconds to click the confirm button could open up a lot more consequences for being ‘friends’.


When we run meeting nights, we are never alone with a young person. Our Leader team do a great job to ‘look out’ for each other standing within ear shot when having a one to one conversation with a young person, so we know what was said.

In the online world, you can easily be in a one to one discussion with a young person who is on your friends list. ‘There is a chat log on Facebook messages and Facebook does keep a log of conversations through the chat feature, but you will also note the ‘delete messages’ and ‘delete conversation’ feature. Conversations could be edited by deleting messages and replies to take your reply out of context.

Privacy Settings are another major issue, you may think that if you are careful of what you post to Facebook, you’ll be fine. Not exactly, if you comment or like a photo on a friends wall, and their privacy settings are set to ‘friends of friends’. Your comment or like will be shown to all your friends. So if this photo is one showing your friend in a drunken state on a Saturday evening, your ‘like’ endorses that behaviour and tells the young people that it’s fine to act this way. I’m not saying young people are not aware of alcohol (that’s a whole different argument) but by endorsing the photo you send out the wrong messages to the young people.

Facebook has to make its money somewhere, adverts are appearing within the news feeds of the pages you like. I’ve seen it, friends who have liked major brands (which again only takes a second to do) have their name in a sponsored story, along with a nice big photo of the product, and they are instantly showing their endorsement for products ranging from, McDonald’s to Durex. These posts can appear at any time, because you have ‘liked’ the page, this gives the brand the chance to advertise to your friends whenever they wish to chuck another few quid in the advert system.

Remember; Facebook’s terms of use say you have to be over 13 to register, so many young people ‘fake’ their age, so content suitable for over 18’s can easily be accessed by a young person if they just input their ‘wrong’ age.


All in all, its much easier if you do not accept friend requests from young people in your care, there are other options more suitable for communication, including Facebook Groups and Pages.

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