Keeping connected during a global pandemic has never been easier. With 2020 technology ensuring we can see, speak and connect with loved ones all around the globe, it certainly eases the void of human contact.
When social distancing measures meant that regular baby classes which had become an important part of the weekly routine were no longer accessible, we saw an almost instant rise in the online baby course! Some courses were up within days, others to follow shortly, in the name of keeping us connected and continuing the ability for businesses to offer their services. But how many took the time to really consider the safety of their offering?
I'm trying to keep as positive as possible during these unprecedented times but the truth is, the internet is not always a safe place. Sadly the National Crime Agency (NCA) has warned us that there is an estimate of 300,000 individuals in the UK posing a threat to children online. The NCA have revealed that offenders are already discussing opportunities to use the pandemic to abuse children during during this crisis.
It has been discovered previously that a significant amount of content used on online child pornography sites are seemingly innocent, everyday shares by parents on their social media which has been altered or edited to add explicit and inappropriate comments. Scary stuff.
In short, we need to keep content of our babies safe and protected. I'm not suggesting to avoid all online classes, I know how valuable it is to connect during these strange times but I've been shocked by some of the things I've been seeing online in my line of work (baby massage) over the last couple of weeks considering its sensitive content. Screenshots or even videos of naked babies posted on social media or for advertising, open invitations for all to join an online class, suggestions that family members can watch for free during group classes and so it goes on. No doubt with good intention, but still concerning.
So here are my top tips on what to check for and what to consider if you are joining an online course where your baby may be on-screen.
1) Platform and Privacy
What platform (online programme) is being used for the class? Is it private, secure and password protected. You should be personally invited and need a meeting code and a password to join the meeting.
2) Waiting Room
Many platforms have a waiting room option. This means that only the host can add the participants before they are part of the meeting. If somebody chooses to keep their audio and video off and the host has not taken care with their settings it can be easy for somebody to join and lurk in the background. Always double check with your host that only the participants have the details. A lot of online meeting providers are making this standard to improve security, but only recently.
3) Lock the Room
Ask your host how many participants are in the class and confirm that they will 'lock the room' once everybody has joined. This means once started nobody else can join. Class sizes should be small and manageable.
There have been concerns recently about recorded meetings ending up online and unsecure. Only the host should be able to record the meeting and you should make sure that they aren't doing so. Participants are alerted to any meetings being recorded and you should flag this immediately if you see it. Once saved meetings could be shared with anybody and you should be asked for full consent if this is their intention. All participants video should be on to ensure that anybody trying to take photographs or videos by other means would be seen.
Think carefully about whether you want your baby to be on screen at all and if you do please keep nappies on at all times. Keep your baby covered as much as you can or consider learning and practicing the strokes with dry strokes on top of the clothes and then unclothed later away from the meeting and without a screen encroaching on this special time.
This is not to invoke fear or suspicion, especially of our peer group, but just as we would safeguard you both during our in-person classes we must do the same here. Take care with technology. Ask questions of your teachers and carefully consider what you feel comfortable with. I am prouder than ever to be a part of the International Association of Infant Massage who paused in putting our programme online to ask the important questions and for always keeping parents and babies at the heart of what we do.
Is this safe for parents and babies?
How does this serve parents and babies?
How can we best support parents and babies during this time?
This may mean subtle adjustments to what has always been a face to face programme and I recognise that rushing out to teach online without that careful consideration would not have aligned with our ethos which I believe is what makes the IAIM the gold standard.
If you're unsure about online classes, remember our founder Vimala McClure's book which has detailed photographs and descriptions on how to massage your baby as well as a wealth of information - baby massage is so much more than just strokes.
Connected Babies offer Instructor Training and Parent Classes on behalf of International Association of Infant Massage