It is very important that, as far as possible, the Online Pastor communities remain safe places online. That is, nobody should be afraid of being mocked, bullied, trolled, belittled, or exploited, no matter what they share about themselves or their faith. People who make the space feel unsafe in any of those ways, or in some other way, should expect to be moderated.
They should also be safe spaces to meet other people and make connections. BUT I don’t know everyone who is involved in the Online Pastor communities and I can’t vouch for them. So please, please, take care of yourselves and each other. Here’s a few pointers to doing that more effectively:
Check your settings
Social media sites tend to default towards making your information increasingly public. You can always tighten up your settings to protect your information. The H2B safety centre gives you really clear instructions on how to do that, and they also have instructions on how to report a person or a post, how to block someone and lots more useful information for staying safer online.
Ignore friend requests
You do not have to accept requests from anyone, even if it’s someone you might have come across on an Online Pastor page. If you don’t know them in real life (or even if you do, but you don’t trust them), it’s fine to ignore a request.
Don’t go alone
If you want to meet up with some of the Online Pastor friends you’ve made, you should always arrange to do it in a group, and take at least one responsible adult with you. A good idea is to meet up at a bigger event like GO or a local youth service. That way there will be a lot of other people around, but you’ll still be able to chat face to face.
If you are worried about something in one of the Online Pastor groups, tell someone.
Bullying, trolling, and piling on are serious problems which in other forums have even led some people to take their own lives. So please don’t let it go unnoticed. You can always contact me, but you could also tell a parent, a teacher, a youth leader at church or someone else you trust, if you are worried about dealing with it directly.
Sexploitation in all forms is a very serious crime indeed. If you have any reason to suspect that someone on the Online Pastor groups is not who they say they are, please tell someone immediately. Again, you can always contact me, or you could tell someone else you know and trust and ask them to intervene.
If you don’t feel you can tell anyone else, you can always phone Childline: 0800 1111 or chat to one of their advisors online. They will listen and help at any time, about any issue.