Scoutmaster D.C.’s troop is exploring non-traditional ways to communicate with Scouts. He asked for tips on managing technologies such as Facebook, Twitter, and mass-calling systems.
A TWOFER SYSTEM
We have a dual system: a Google group the adults run and a Facebook page the Scouts put together. Permission slips, blank health forms, and the like are on the adult site; the Scout site is a bit more free ranging and is a useful barometer of Scout sentiment. Both use privacy controls so they’re not completely public; users have to be approved. We monitor the sites for inappropriate pictures and comments, but this has not been an issue.
Scouts communicate natively through sites like Facebook, so it seems a natural extension of the “gang” nature of Scouting to use the technology. What old fogies like me did with the telephone is now done online.
Committee Chairman R.W.H.
TEXT TO THE MASSES
There are mass-text solutions out there. Do an Internet search for “mass texting” or creating a “text group” on your phone.
Green Bay, Wis.
THREE SIMPLE RULES
Our troop uses both Facebook and Twitter, and we are learning as we go. Guidelines are relatively simple: Configure settings to limit access to approved individuals, do not publish personal information, and never post anything that you would not want to physically pin to a community bulletin board or write in a letter to your grandparents.
Kennett Square, Pa.
KEEP PRIVACY IN MIND
The most important thing is to make sure that you use something the Scouts will use. Facebook is big today, but tomorrow?
An important issue is youth protection. I like texting since just about every Scout has a phone, and texting is private. Second is Twitter; with Twitter, you can control who follows you. You really don’t want to enable a predator to contact your Scouts.
While I haven’t used them for Scouting, there are many utilities that allow you to send a single message through Twitter, text, e-mail, and Facebook all with one click. That is a huge time saver and helps ensure you can contact everyone by any method they prefer.
Unit Commissioner J.H.
PREPARE YOUR THUMBS
Our crew uses texting as its primary tool for communication. We have a Yahoo group as well. We’ve had limited success with Twitter. Facebook is great for sharing pictures (even while on the trip) with friends, family, and absent crewmembers.
Crew Advisor K.S.
ASK YOUR FAMILIES
It often takes several forms of communication to get information to every Scout and family. Survey each family for the ways they would like to receive information. Some may not want their e-mail address, Facebook page, or phone number on mass lists. Others may not have access to these sites or technologies.
Asst. District Commissioner F.W.K.
We have our own Facebook page, where I post announcements and the calendar.
However, we have Scouts who don’t have Internet access, so at each meeting we verbally give announcements. That seems to work better than the Internet, especially for our Cub Scouts, who must hear things to remember them.
Pack Trainer C.T.
ON FACEBOOK’S TERMS
Please note that the Terms and Conditions of Facebook require users to be at least 13 years old. There are definitely Scouts out there who are not that age, and they should be following the rules set by the company. We as leaders shouldn’t set up a system where we encourage them to break the rules.
Troop Committee Chair P.W.
SEIZE A TEACHABLE MOMENT
There’s nothing wrong with telling parents that their boys will come home with information from every meeting. And there’s even less wrong with expecting the boys to take notes of important dates and information given out at the meetings. Personal responsibility is still tantamount to this process. Teaching young men that they must participate in this process is critical to their growth.
Egg Harbor Township, N.J.
DO YOUR BEST
A lot of repetition and a variety of methods are needed to get messages and information out. Even then, some people claim that they didn’t get it. Follow the Cub Scout Motto: “Do Your Best.”
Cub Scout Committee Chair S.M.
FIRST NAMES ONLY
We use a lot of e-mail, and security is always a concern. Because of that, we only use the Scout’s first name if they are mentioned in the e-mail. If the message fell into the wrong hands, a stranger would not be able to discover the Scout’s full identity. We just wrapped up First Aid merit badge, and this process worked nicely throughout the entire badge.
Assistant Scoutmaster J.K.
KEEP IDENTITIES SAFE
On our troop’s Web site, we don’t post anyone’s name with their picture until they are either 18 or earn their Eagle Scout—that’s when they show up in the local paper anyway..
Assistant Scoutmaster J.D.