This procedure provides guidance for the use of social media by youth justice staff.
When to use this procedure
When seeking clarification about the use of social media.
What else you need to know
Practice context and legislation
- The use of social media by youth justice staff is governed by the Code of conduct for Victorian public sector employees, which guides the standard of behaviour required of all government employees regardless of the forum. The Department of Human Services' Social media policy for employees provides more specific guidance for all department employees, including youth justice workers.
- The Guidance for use of social media in the Victorian public sector (available from State Service Authority: Codes of Conduct website) describes social media as the term used for internet-based tools for sharing and discussing information among people. It refers to user-generated information, opinion and other content shared and discussed over open digital networks.
- Social media may include (although is not limited to):
- social networking sites (such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace)
- video and photo sharing websites (such as Flickr, YouTube)
- blogs, including corporate blogs and personal blogs
- blogs hosted by media outlets (for example 'comments' or 'your say' feature on theage.com.au)
- micro-blogging (such as Twitter)
- forums, discussion boards and groups (such as Google groups, Whirlpool)
- wikis and online collaborations (such as Wikipedia)
- vodcasting and podcasting
- online multiplayer gaming platforms (for example World of Warcraft, Second Life)
- instant messaging (including SMS)
- geospatial tagging (Foursquare).
- Social media also includes all other emerging electronic and digital communication applications.
- There are specific instructions available regarding the use of email and instant messaging in case management.
- While the use of social media in society is increasing, its use in relation to working within youth justice is problematic particularly in relation to privacy concerns.
Roles and key tasks
- Youth justice case manager
- Team leader / team manager
- Assistant Director / Manager Individual and Family Support
- Youth Justice Senior Practice Advisor
Youth justice case manager
- Use social media appropriately, with discretion and within legal parameters, without compromising yourself or the young person.
Team leader / team manager
- Provide oversight, direction and monitoring of the area youth justice program.
- Provide case consultation and direction regarding the use of social media.
Assistant Director / Manager Individual and Family Support
- Provide case consultation regarding details of the young person and the appropriate use of social media.
Youth Justice Senior Practice Advisor
- Provide case consultation regarding use of social media in relation to young people exhibiting high risk behaviours. This should occur subject to local area agreements between Assistant Director / Manager Individual and Family Support and the Youth Justice Senior Practice Advisor.
The procedure in detail
- Nature of social media
- Definitions of use
- Social media policy for employees
- Private use and worker safety
- Social media and the code of conduct
- Code of conduct – remaining apolitical
- Code of conduct – making public comment
- Code of conduct – public trust
- Code of conduct – fair and objective treatment
- Code of conduct – privacy and confidentiality
- Code of conduct – equity and diversity
- Privacy considerations
- Social media contact with young people
- Contact after youth justice involvement ends
- Issues with using social media
- Concerns for a young person's welfare or whereabouts
- Communication with police
- Young peoples privacy settings
Nature of social media
Whether using social media for official use or private purposes, employees are reminded that comments can be available in perpetuity and reproduced in other media.
Definitions of use
'Official use': using social media tools when acting as an official representative of youth justice in accordance with explicit approval of the Director of Communications under the department's Social media policy for employees.
'Private use': using social media tools in a private capacity.
Social media policy for employees
Youth justice workers must comply with the department's Social media policy for employees.
There is a useful video presentation on the department's social media policy intranet site.
Private use and worker safety
For personal safety and privacy reasons, youth justice workers should not identify themselves as youth justice workers or government employees on social media.
Rather than allowing public access, you should have private settings on all social media.
Youth justice workers should not make comments, or upload photos or videos that may be deemed as a breach of the Code of conduct for Victorian public sector employees, this procedure, the department's Social media policy for employees or any legislation (for example, s. 534 of the Children Youth and Families Act 2005 or the Information Privacy Act 2000).
Any use of social media via the department's computers is governed by the Acceptable use of computer services policy.
Department email addresses should not be used on social media sites as per the department's social media policy.
Social media and the code of conduct
The Guidance for use of social media in the Victorian public sector (the guidance) highlights the specific areas of the Code of conduct relating to use of social media.
Youth justice workers must adhere to this guidance, which are available from the State Service Authority: Codes of Conduct website.
The guidance highlights the sections of the Code of conduct relevant to the use of social media. These highlighted areas are noted below.
Code of conduct – remaining apolitical
The code states that 'public sector employees conduct themselves in an apolitical manner'.
Code of conduct – making public comment
Public sector employees only make public comment when specifically authorised to do so.
If comments are made in a private capacity it should be clear that opinions are the worker's own.
Personal comments should not compromise capacity to perform a role or relate to government activities which the worker is involved in.
Code of conduct – public trust
The code of conduct requires public sector employees to seek to build and maintain a high level of trust with the government and community.
The policy requires that when using social media 'for official or private capacity, staff must not do anything that may adversely affect their standing as a public official or could bring themselves or the public sector into disrepute'.
The policy highlights risks for workers' reputation when involved in private activities on social media such as:
- 'posting images, information or links to images or information
- disclosing one's own and others' personal information
- engaging in a heated debate or argument.'
Conduct of conduct – work resources
The code of conduct requires public sector employees to use work resources and equipment efficiently and only for appropriate authorised purposes.
When applied to social media this section of the guidance specifically refers to the compliance with policies such as the Acceptable use of computer services policy.
Code of conduct – fair and objective treatment
The code requires public sector employees to promote 'an environment that encourages respect'.
This includes employees' interactions with other workers, clients and the community.
Code of conduct – privacy and confidentiality
Staff must ensure that privacy and confidentiality of information acquired at work is protected at all times. The potential scope and ramifications of a breach of privacy or confidentiality when using social media are severe.
Code of conduct – equity and diversity
The code's requirement that workers 'create an environment that is free of discrimination, harassment and bullying' is also applicable in using social media.
Section 534 of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 restricts the publication of any information that may lead to the identification of: a young person as being the subject of an order made by a children's court; the venue of a children's court; or any party or witness to a children's court proceedings.
'Publication' includes releasing information through the use of social media.
In relation to the use of social media, this precludes any interaction on any form of social media where a young person may be identified as being involved with youth justice.
This is particular important due to the potentially permanent nature of published information on social media.
The Information Privacy Act 2000 states that personal information may only be disclosed for the same reason for which it was collected unless an exemption applies.
Social media contact with young people
Youth justice workers must not use their own social media accounts to contact or interact with young people.
This may place the youth justice worker's own privacy and safety at risk, as well as potentially identify the young person as involved with the youth justice service, causing a breach of s. 534 of the Children Youth and Families Act 2005.
Any use of social media, other than what is already in the public domain without releasing the worker's own details, must first be approved through the department's Corporate Communications branch.
Contact the Manager, Web and Design Services, Communications Branch on 9096 0779.
Contact after youth justice involvement ends
To maintain professional integrity, youth justice staff must not 'friend', message or interact on social media with young people previously involved with youth justice.
Issues with using social media
Given the concerns listed above and in line with the department's Social media policy for employees, it is not appropriate to interact with young people on social media.
Despite the growing use of social media within society, there are many factors that are likely to make the use of social media problematic in a youth justice setting.
Depending on the form of social media these considerations can include:
- lack of privacy
- public nature of social media
- permanency of uploaded content
- lack of ability to hide a young person's details
- potential for mass distribution of content
- lack of control over security of the young person's login and password
- potential for young people to be identified as being involved with youth justice
- potential networking among young people involved with youth justice
- potential for misinterpretation of short messages
- potential responsibility on youth justice to regularly check social media sites and follow up content or communication from the young person
- lack of control over privacy settings
- uncontrolled access and use by media
- potential security issues for youth justice workers and young people.
Concerns for a young person's welfare or whereabouts
If there are significant, immediate and defendable concerns relating to a young person's whereabouts, personal safety or risk to the community, it may be appropriate to access publicly available information about a young person on social media networks to locate the young person.
This should only occur if youth justice workers can access information without disclosing their own details and without identifying the young person as being involved with youth justice or breaking relevant privacy laws.
If there is information relevant to the young person's whereabouts, the youth justice worker should consult with their team leader to discuss the appropriateness of using this information, with particular emphasis on worker safety.
Consultation must also occur with the Corporate Communications Branch when it is considered absolutely necessary to communicate with a client via social media for welfare purposes.
Contact the Manager, Web and Design Services, Communications Branch on 9096 0779.
Communication with police
Occasionally it may be necessary to liaise with police about information obtained about a young person via publicly accessible social media.
See 'Release of information to police' for more.
Young peoples privacy settings
It may be appropriate to discuss privacy settings for social media with young people.
You could approach this discussion in relation to what information is publicly available, and the implications this could have for the young person both currently and in the future.
Some useful resources to assist with this process include:
- Victoria police, Kids cyber safety site
- ThinkUKnow Australia
- Social media policy for employees (intranet only)
- Information Privacy Act 2000
- Code of conduct for Victorian Public Sector employees
- ThinkUKnow Australia - website
- Cybersmart - website