The COVID-19 pandemic has brought life to a screeching halt, particularly in the sports community. Competitions, practices, and in-person training sessions have been cancelled or postponed. While athletic teams are benched, many coaches are taking advantage of online tools to keep athletes engaged and at peak performance.
As many of you already know, online communication poses unique safety risks. Youth and people with disabilities already experience high rates of abuse, and increased time online may heighten their risk. Parents may be relaxing their existing rules for screen time and internet usage. Younger athletes may have more unsupervised technology time. Athletes of all ages may start using new apps and platforms or using familiar ones differently.
The U.S. Center for SafeSport created a new guide, Keeping Your Kids Safe Online During COVID-19, to help coaches, parents, and athletes navigate the online environment. The Center recommends that all adults who work with minor athletes keep these safety guidelines in mind:
Get parent/guardian permission for each type of online communication you use with athletes, including team apps, video sharing, and virtual training sessions.
Should you need to communicate with an individual athlete, always copy the athlete’s parent/guardian or another adult. This includes notifying them with dates, times, and links to individual virtual sessions.
Just like in-person meetings, one-on-one virtual interactions must be observable and interruptible.
Include the entire team in communications whenever possible and appropriate.
Be transparent and professional in all communication with athletes and parents/guardians.
The new guides offers specific and practical tips to help everyone follow the online safety guidelines. The Center also offers a variety of other for parents and youth athletes.
 Approximately 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys are likely victims of sexual abuse (source: David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center. University of New Hampshire). A child is bullied every 7 minutes, and 90% of LGBTQ students experienced harassment at school and online (source: StompOutBullying.org). People with disabilities experience rape and sexual assault at more than twice the rate of those without a disability (source: 2009 Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report on Crime Against People with Disabilities).