Guidelines on use of modern technology when working with children


Use of photography and video

The use of photography and video is an issue of great concern among those working with children.  The Archdiocese recognises that every parish has their own arrangements in relation to its use in schools, youth groups and for the sacraments however the guidelines have been devised below to aid parishes and diocesan groups:

  • it is always good practice to seek written permission from a parent or guardian before taking any photographs or video footage of children.  This written permission must be sought from the parent/guardian or the person who owns the photograph before it can be displayed on promotional materials or websites.  This can be incorporated in the registration form when a child joins a group (template permission Resource 10);
  • neither names nor any personal information should be displayed alongside any photographs;
  • special consideration should be given where taking photographs or video footage might be misinterpreted, or the images could be seen as provocative (eg beach trip or gymnastics display etc). It is not to say, however, that with the right planning, these events cannot be recorded and enjoyed.

Photography and video recording are important methods of recording social activity and providing an historic record – illustrating and validating important moments in people’s lives. This process is a powerful and personal one, and therefore, we must respect the rights of everyone to make the choice whether or not to be photographed.


Use of mobile phones

The use of mobile phones for communication is growing rapidly and many young people use their own personal mobile.  In addition to this many mobiles can be used for photography and video as well as for the internet.  It is therefore important for groups to be very clear on their stance in relation to use of mobile phones for church personnel.


The following guidelines are recommended:

  • when responsible for the supervision and safety of young people church personnel should not use mobile phones, for social or business purposes, unless in the case of emergency.  To do so before we would consider this to be both unsafe and inappropriate conduct.  Anything which compromises the ability to maintain a safe environment and give full attention to the supervision of children should be actively discouraged;
  • most mobile phones have a facility to take photographs and videos which can be immediately uploaded onto the web or social networking sites without permission. Therefore, group leaders should discourage the use of mobile phones during church activities. The group may wish to produce a mobile phone Code of Conduct to ensure safe usage;
  • mobile phones with photographic and video facilities are not to be used in changing facilities or residential accommodation;
  • contacting children by phone, text or e-mail should never be undertaken without parental knowledge or consent.  Additional communication should be directed to the child’s parent/guardian.

There are situations when access to a mobile phone will make a positive contribution to the safety and welfare of children, particularly when an emergency occurs.


Use of the internet and e-mail in Church

Many parishes and diocesan groups have websites and use e-mail as a form of communication with children and families.  Through these websites they give information on many things including Catholic faith and social teaching, parish and diocesan activities, activities organised by other agencies whether community or faith based and give links to other websites.  Information relating to groups working with young people should only be included in diocesan/parish websites if they adhere to a child protection policy which has been sent to the Diocesan Training Team for approval.


Acceptable internet use policy

Use of the internet by church personnel to promote, inform and educate, is encouraged where such use supports the ethos of the Archdiocese.  It is the responsibility of those church personnel using the internet and the Parish Priest/Administrator/Diocesan Contact Person for each of the diocesan groups to ensure that they:

  • comply with current legislation;
  • use the internet in an acceptable way.

It is recognised that many young people communicate through social networking sites and personal e-mails.  This method of communication is generally not shared with parents/guardians.  It is therefore the responsibility of the group leader/organiser to ensure that any information shared with a child through a social networking relationship or through e-mail is shared with parents.  Advice in this area can be sought from the Diocesan Youth Director.  The following are some guidelines to follow:

  • all e-mails sent and received from children should be retained for 2 years;
  • young people should only be contacted by group e-mail and should also be forwarded to parents;
  • it is the right of each individual to decide who has access to their e-mail address.  All e-mail providers offer a BCC function which allows the sender to send an e-mail to many people without revealing the addresses of the other people receiving the e-mail.  In order to ensure the privacy of children and parents/guardians, individual addresses from group e-mails should be sent using the BCC box.  If you are unsure how to do this contact the Diocesan Office or the Youth Ministry Office and someone will advise you;
  • group e-mails should give individuals the opportunity to have their contact details removed from the list by including a statement such as: “If you wish to be removed from this e-mail list please contact the administrator”.


Unacceptable internet use

In particular the following is deemed unacceptable internet use or behaviour:

  •  visiting internet sites that contain offensive, obscene, hateful, pornographic or otherwise illegal material;
  •  using the computer to perpetrate any form of fraud, or software, film or music piracy;
  •  using the internet to send offensive or harassing material to other users;
  •  using obscene or racist language;
  •  hacking into unauthorised areas;
  •  publishing defamatory and/or knowingly false material about others on social networking sites, ‘blogs’ (online journals), ‘wikis’ and any online publishing format;
  •  introducing any form of malicious software into the corporate network;
  •  intentional damage to computers, computer systems or computer networks;
  • intentional damage to any information communication technologies equipment;
  • using another users password or giving their password to another user;
  • using the network for unapproved commercial purposes.

If a diocesan or parish group uses the internet or emailing as part of its activities, the group leader must ensure that each leader and young person is aware of what is acceptable and unacceptable usage, using the above points as a guide.   The area of cyber bullying should also be addressed in drawing up and implementing an anti bullying policy.


Church organisations can get further help and guidance about online safety from the following:

For adults – Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP)

For children – Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP)


For information on Cyber Bullying