Advances in communication technology in recent years have made it easier and quicker for clubs to communicate with their members. Unfortunately, increases in the use of these technologies come with increases in misuse and abuse. So, how do you ensure communication with and between club members is appropriate?

With the season over it’s a good time to think about our responsibilities as communicators. Remember that most forms of communication these days are instant, can reach many people very quickly and, once “out there” are out there for good.

It’s no longer enough to think before we speak. Now we also have to think before we write, post, tweet, upload, send, comment or share. Plus many users of communication technology are young people and the consequences of misuse can be dire:

  • Cyber bullying in certain circumstances may be considered a criminal offence that can be reported by victims to the police.
  • Publishing false or misleading comments about another person may mean you are liable for defamation. And you don’t have to write those words down or send them to hundreds of people. A defamatory comment about someone spoken to one other person may be defined as defamation.
  • An email, SMS message, Tweet, even a comment on Facebook, is a written record and can be used as evidence.
  • Even if you have a change of heart and delete a photo on the internet, that image could still exist in cyberspace forever.

Play by the Rules has developed a template as part of its Club Toolkit to help clubs create their own Communication and Use of New Technology Policy. It’s free to use and you can simply add your club logo, get the committee to approve it and communicate it to club members. Include the main points of the policy in your regular newsletter and post it on your website where members can read and review it.

So, what do you do if one of your members is found to have uploaded something offensive or defamed someone in an email or an SMS message? A policy concerning the appropriate use of communication technology means little without the added support of a Member Protection Policy or Code of Behaviour.  Play by the Rules Club Toolkit has templates for those as well.

Use them as they are or as a starting point to develop your own. If your club is interested in implementing something more detailed, check out the website’s resources page for links to other programs with more comprehensive guidelines.

Go to Play by the Rules for information and free online training and resources for clubs and sporting organisations to ensure everyone involved in sport can do so in enjoyable, safe environments, free from discrimination or harassment.


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