There is no lower age limit for taking part in BTO surveys, and the BTO wishes to encourage young people to develop an early interest in bird research. However, for the benefit of all parties, we do require written parental consent before allowing any person under 18 to take part in a BTO survey on their own account. If you will be undertaking fieldwork with a young person who is not your own child, it will help safeguard the interests of the child, yourself, and the BTO, if you observe the following procedures:
- Make sure you are aware of and abide by the BTO’s Safeguarding Policy and Code of Conduct.
- Review your plans in the light of the young person’s capabilities: they may not have the same physical strength, stamina, or emotional development as an adult.
- Make sure that the young person fully understands any risks associated with the fieldwork and the measures you have taken to mitigate them.
- Modify your behaviour so that it is appropriate to the young person’s age and maturity; consider the appropriateness of, for example, smoking, swearing or making suggestive comments.
- Problems can arise through differences of perception, either on the part of the young person or of other adults: avoid touching in ways that could be misconstrued as sexual or physical abuse.
- Obtain permission before taking photographs of young people.
The NSPCC offers a variety of resources for understanding and dealing with child welfare issues, including a Child Protection Helpline. See www.nspcc.org.uk.