This is the third in a series of articles about Scouting and social media; here’s the introduction, a post about youth protection issues, and some thoughts about what works. Also be sure to read the B.S.A. Social Media Guidelines.
A personal profile on a social media tool that identifies us a Scout Leader makes us de-facto representatives of Scouting in general and the B.S.A. in particular. I discussed youth protection issues in a previous post in this series but the responsible use of social media as a representative of Scouting also requires us to be thoughtful and circumspect about what we say and how we say it.
I use this statement from the 1914 edition of the Scoutmaster handbook as my personal approach to decidng what content is appropriate:
The Movement is wholly non-sectarian and plans to work with every sect and creed alike; it is non-military, and seeks to promote Peace Scouting and to develop educational character-building for good citizenship. It is wholly non-partisan. It cannot favor one interest against another and cannot countenance interference on any debatable questions, whether social, religious or political.
In my role as a Scout leader I avoid debatable questions and I won’t engage in discussing them. In my role as a private citizen I am active in politics, in social work and in pursuing my religious beliefs. There’s a hard line between the two roles.
I have a private profiles and Scouting profiles on Social media tools. In my personal profiles I feel free to discuss ‘debatable questions’ but I will not allow these questions to be debated on my Scouting profiles. I am distressed when Scout leaders use their social media profiles to discuss ‘debatable questions’ of a social, political or religious nature. There’s plenty to debate about within Scouting that we don’t need to ‘countenance interference’ from these matters.
In my Scouting profiles I am careful to note that the views, thoughts and opinions are my own and not those of the B.S.A. I am not concerned about the legalities as much as making it clear that whatever I write or say needs to be tested against the relevant B.S.A. resources. I really don’t want to misguide people and, while I have strong opinions and work hard to be accurate everything needs to be confirmed and tested. I really do appreciate readers who will point out inconsistencies and errors in a civil manner.
Online Scouting forums and email lists can be helpful but some discussions devolve into irresolvable arguments with more heat than light. I survey some forums and lists occasionally and I am amazed at how needlessly rude Scout leaders can be to one another. Any advice, opinion or comment found online must be weighed against actual B.S.A. information sources (principally at Scouting.org) before we act on it.
I think we’ve only started to realize the potential of social media tools in furthering our work as Scout leaders. I know that I have grown and gained a lot of knowledge from the online Scouting community.