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Social Media Policy

Archdiocese of Cincinnati Social Media Policy

Download the Social Media Policy here

The actual policy is located at the above link. Below are Frequently Asked Questions from YM Leaders.

F.A.Q.s Concerning the Archdiocesan Social Media Policy

I am a youth ministry leader and want to use Facebook® to help reach my students. May I do that?

Yes. Facebook® and other social networking sites are widely used by young people, thus making them an easy way to reach our young constituents. The Social Media Policy primarily encourages using a social networking page in the name of a church organization as a means for outreach to young people (2.a). In this way, it is very clear that the young people are communicating with someone in a ministry role with their interaction on the site. Setting up an account under the ministry leader’s name but used exclusively for ministry, is the second best way to set up a social networking site.

In either case, adults must keep in mind that it is important to maintain a healthy boundary between themselves and the young people they teach and mentor. An adult is not the peer of a young person, so adults should not become overly friendly with young people. Some examples of simple behaviors that could easily lead to inappropriate adult/child boundaries are: use of an adult-known nickname, inclusion in adult social circles, or being available 24/7 outside of a true emergency situation.

Before using a private Facebook® account for your ministry needs, always explore if other options may suit your needs: a group page, or other tools such as Blackboard® or Moodle™.

May I use my personal Facebook® account to reach my students?

This is a qualified “yes”. The Archdiocese encourages setting up a social networking page in the name of an organization to communicate with young people, followed by a page set up in the minister’s name but used exclusively for ministry.

If for whatever reason, a ministry leader decides that the outreach needed to do the job well needs to be done through a personal social networking page, this MUST be approved by the supervisor (usually the pastor) and that supervisor must be able to monitor the site at his or her discretion (2.b). The ministry leader must also ensure that parents are aware if their children are connecting to you on a social networking site.

Ministry leaders must be aware that if they use their personal social networking page for ministerial and personal purposes, they must be vigilant in representing themselves as ministers of the Church in all interactions that can be viewed publicly. Anything that could cause scandal to the ministry must be avoided. Such may include mention of inappropriate use of alcohol, advocacy of inappropriate music/movies, inappropriate language, inappropriate dress or the expression of opinions contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church. Since the Catholic Church is prohibited from endorsing a political party or its candidates in order to retain its tax-exempt status, the endorsement, or apparent endorsement, or any political party or candidate on a site used for ministerial purposes is expressly forbidden.

Also, keep in mind that by exposing a young person to your personal page, you take on the risk of exposing them to things any of your adult friends might say. If you have friends that would post anything inappropriate for a young person that you are unable to hide from their view, you should not use that site for ministry. Anything that is obscene, offensive, defamatory or otherwise potentially scandalous for a cleric, employee or volunteer of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati would be considered inappropriate.

What do I do if a student tries to “friend” me on my personal social networking site?

First of all, be aware that an adult should never request to “friend” a young person online. That could put that young person in a position of feeling pressured to do what he or she would rather not do. All social networking friendships should be initiated by the young person.

If you are not using your personal account for ministry and a young person requests to “friend” you, the easiest thing to do is to forward them to the ministry account you do use. If you do not have anything to forward them to, talk to the child in person about why you do not accept young people as “friends” on your account. You could liken it to a situation where if you were inviting adult friends to your home for a social gathering, it could be odd to also invite some youth ministry members to that same social gathering.

If I simply have a private social networking account that I do not use for ministry, does my supervisor need to be aware of or monitor it?

No. As long as you are not conducting official ministry on your site and any young people connected with you on the site were already connected to you outside of ministry (such as a younger sibling, niece or nephew), there is no need to involve your supervisor.

Keep in mind, however, that the policies of the Archdiocesan Social Media Policy apply to any interaction that may implicate the parish, school or Archdiocese (2.d, 2.e and 2.f). Even if you are acting privately, you should always strive to adhere to Christian values in all interactions, especially since social networking sites are public forums (2.b and 2.h).

What is the policy on using photos of children on a social networking site?

Photographs are extremely common on the web, and are freely posted and passed around by all who use social networking sites. There is sometimes concern that the posting of the photograph of a minor on the internet may expose that child to a child predator. To the extent that this is a danger, photographs on a social networking site are actually much safer than on a regular webpage because they are always limited to those who have been officially recognized and accepted by the site user, whereas a website is viewable by anyone. It could be very helpful if youth ministers communicate that to concerned parents. Nonetheless, a parent always reserves the right to have any photograph of their own child removed from an internet site. While it is not possible to control what pictures of youth will be posted by other youth who are connected to a ministry website, the following recommendations are put forth to help keep children safe and give parents the right to determine the use of photographs of their children:

  • Parents should give written permission for the use of their child’s image on the internet. Such permission is normally part of the standard permission and release form that parents must sign in order to allow their children to participate in any activity. The standard line already in place on the approved form reads: “I agree that the Archbishop or his agents may use my child’s portrait or photograph for promotional purposes, website and office functions”.

  • Images of children posted on the internet should not be associated with names, unless there is specific permission granted by the parent for that additional connection.

  • Use of the images of children on a website should be limited to the purpose of appropriate advertisement/promotion of ministry related events

(Also refer to Guidelines for Parishes Concerning Photographs of Children on Websites)