A county junior organiser has reported concerns that a number of county squad members have been involved in exchanging text and MSN messages. These messages were of a derogatory, hurtful and personal nature, and whilst they did not overtly name any specific individual, one of the players in the squad felt they were the target of the abuse.
The ‘conversation’ that ensued, in the form of messages exchanged, culminated in the squad being divided into rival factions. Individuals were distressed to the point of no longer wishing to take part in the sport they loved. The negative consequences that arose for the individual who felt they were being targeted, and the squad as a whole, were inevitable.
Each player was afforded the opportunity to relate their experience. Their testimony revealed that the situation had developed over a lengthy period of time. This meant that the situation had become irreparable for some of the young people involved.
Role of parents
Parents play a vital role in facilitating their child’s involvement in golf. The commitment required in respect of time, finance and emotional support can’t be overstated. In this particular case, the effort of parents to support their children’s participation in golf was evident, but there was also an aspect of negative contribution by parents. Some believed that they were being supportive, when they were unable to see that their involvement and interaction with other parents had worsened the situation.
The outcomes for players in this case were mixed. Positive aspects included that they felt ‘heard and listened to’ by their colleagues, parents and officials. Negative feelings were that they felt playing for the county would still be difficult in the future.
Lessons to learn
Communicating via technology is a legitimate and routine activity, but sending malicious communication is a criminal offence.
Although the threshold for criminal investigation in this case was not met, it should be noted that the ability to 'say' something to or about a person from a safe distance, without physically having to interact with the other person, gave the young people in this situation a false impression of their freedom to express hurtful remarks. This rendered them unwittingly liable to breaching the law.
Before sending any communication, the test should be: ‘Would I say these words to the person face to face?’
Would a more timely intervention have prevented this situation from escalating?
How would you respond to a report of an inappropriate exchange of communication involving social media?
How would you secure the information/evidence?
Do you have a code of conduct for players, parents, coaches, volunteers that covers the appropriate use of social media?
How do you convey the message of using social media safely and appropriately to players, parents, coaches, volunteers?
Detailed advice and guidance can be found on this Social Media section of this website.