Community Building January 10, 2021

Community Platforms for children?

oliphant

Hi there! I'm wondering if anyone has any experience using digital platforms for communities involving young people (<18 years old). Some background: one of my projects is a kid's programming charity (prewired.org). Pre covid we had about 50 kids converge on a colocation space every week to learn digital skills, and we had a real community/buzz. We've just been awarded some funding to explore making that experience digital, and creating a community online.

I've a bunch of experience running offline/online communities via my day job (we use a combination of Google Groups, Slack, and increasingly Mighty Networks alongside one-way communication tools like Mailchimp etc.) These wouldn't work for a children's club due to safety concerns, Mailchimp aside.

The key things I think we need are:

  1. a robust onboarding system that lets us confirm that the young person is who they say they are - this may have to be off platform
  2. a way to limit interactions so members cannot contact each other privately, IE everything must be done in public
  3. totally secure with data, of course
  4. a way for young people to showcase their projects
  5. be affordable - we are charity, after all!

If anyone has experience of setting something like this up, please do share any lessons learned!

  1. 2

    I don't know, but I would love to know solutions for this kind of thing.

    All my kids aged 9-17 all use Discord, not sure if that helps with the safety aspect.

    I guess I would be inclined to investigate how schools do it and see what rules they need to adhere to.

    1. 1

      We're planning to start engaging with schools as soon as the project officially starts in Feb. I have a suspicion (although would be happy to be wrong) that they'll be struggling with this stuff due to a) primarily focusing on responding to covid on a day to day basis and b) bureaucracy. Hopefully conversations will unearth some interesting stuff though.

  2. 1

    Some community platforms include parental consent mechanisms and age-check so that you can get real consent for kid accounts in the community (including our Crowdstack platform). Being able to set permissions on who is able to do private messages is crucial as you noted, but also the ability to allow admins to send private messages TO the members while not allowing the kids to message each other. Because it makes life easier if you can send a gentle reminder of the rules behind the scenes (as the admin).

    You'll also want a way to screen content in context to sort out any public sharing of private info like phone numbers and addresses, schools, etc., both programmatically and with human moderation (kids are great at figuring out automated moderation rules).

    Happy to chat further as your strategy evolves.

  3. 1

    There's a few kids oriented community platform on Virtual Mojito

    Totally agree with your points above. It's so important to give the next-gen a safe environment

    1. 1

      Wow, that's a great resource, thank you!

  4. 1

    i run a few homeschool groups and parent 3 of them ourselves...

    ... i'm building a platform with them in-mind. it's not quite ready for prime-time, but, i'm saying "hi!" on this thread so i can come back to it when we're closer.

    ... there are also many open source projects that you could self-host... have you thought of that?

    1. 2

      Interesting - any specific projects you could recommend?

      1. 1

        tons here.... but, i'd have to know more specifics... outcomes?

  5. 1

    Hello @oliphant this is such a great thing that you are trying to do.

    • I've run a community to spread maker movement in Turkey. We've organized different offline and online events, workshops to share our knowledge and build engagement among people.
    • I've managed to build an online learning system and have started design thinking program for highschoolers to make their creative projects with a team.

    For both, I've used Discord. I think you've already known that but the platform is really great. Because;

    • It provides smooth onboarding.
    • Young people generally have some experience to how to use it.
    • There are lots of awesome bots that thrive content, engagement and gamify the process.
    • There is no messaging opportunity on the server. Although people can send direct messages to each other, it is possible to prevent it if a person want to prevent.
    • It is free.
    1. 2

      This is really helpful, thank you - Discord is on our list of options to explore (despite being a gamer, I've never really used it) so I'll make sure to check it out in more details. Definitely want to use something the kids are familiar with!

      1. 2

        definitely try discord... if that works, go for it! it's a great product. a few others listed here.

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