NIYF & Child Protection
The nature of the NIYF work
NIYF work with young people carries with it legal and ethical responsibilities in terms of providing a safe and secure envirnoment free from the threat of harm.
Upon introducing these online methods it became quickly apparent that a careful approach would be necessary in order to ensure that these requirements were met. During observations of the face-to-face consultation processes, it became apparent that online mediums' capacity to facilitate anonymity could prove beneficial, particularly when discussing sensitive issues.
In particular, the discussion forum software posed a threat because, in its generic form, it allowed anyone to register and post messages. It was paramount that those registered must be young people and that they adhere to a code of conduct. The registration process was, therefore, customised to ensure that only young people could register and that they agreed to the code of conduct established. While this process caused a slight delay between registration and participation, the safety of participants was considered by far the more important issue.
Another generic aspect of the discussion forum also posed a threat; the fact that the forum was available 24-7 meant that it required particularly vigilant moderation. A facility was set up to alert the moderator via e-mail when a post to the forum had been made and it became necessary for the moderator to check for posts at regular intervals, including evenings and weekends, in case any inappropriate material was posted.
Despite a desire on the part of Smyth and NIYF to roll out the online consultation activity to as wide an audience as possible - child protection considerations have hindered this development
It is now believed that adequate safeguards have been developed incorporating verifiable registration and vigilant moderation with any generic loopholes allowing access having been closed.