This week is an important week in child internet safety. We’ve already blogged on Facebook’s support for anti-bullying week, and the 24th October saw the annual Internet Watch Foundation Awareness Day. At the Internet Watch Foundation Reception in Westminster on Wednesday it was great to see the work that the IWF are doing both in the UK and globally to get child abuse images removed from the internet; how they are working with their Safer Internet partners Childnet International (who have developed an excellent drama-based educational programme to explore the issues around ‘sexting’) and the South West Grid for Learning (an excellent resource for teachers). eModeration is very proud to be a member of the IWF and to be promoters of child internet safety, both via our blog and – most importantly – through the tireless work of our moderators.
This year, to mark the IWF Awareness day, we turned to our multilingual, global army of moderators and community managers on children’s sites to find out what they think about their work. Being a moderator can be exasperating, draining and thankless work at times. Why do they do it? What motivates them, what would they want to tell children and parents if they could?
Here is some of what they said when we asked them: I hope you’ll find it interesting. On a personal note, as a parent of children active on the internet, I’d like to say a big ‘thank you’ to all moderators and community managers, for helping to keep them safe.
What are some of the fun and more positive things you’ve learned about kids online through your work as a moderator/community manager?
Kids are great social animals. They share and learn and participate freely with each other in all kinds of social circles. A kid growing up no
longer only hears what the kids in his street or her school have to say, they can hear from the whole world. Their joys are infectious.
Their ability to find ways around all sorts of things, be it cheats to games or cheats to getting around the system. Whilst sometimes it’s naughty and not allowed, you have to admire their ability to use the system to work for them. The can manipulate language in an impressive way to communicate exactly what they want to. We just have to be a step ahead as moderators.
Kids don’t have the same inhibitions as adults so they are much more responsive to new challenges, technology, games etc – and boy are they fast to find ways around the rules
How important is the notion of child safety to you personally?
It’s number one. If there was nothing at all we could do to make a child safe online, then I’d be all for shutting down the whole internet! But there is stuff that we can do, and more that we can do. Make it safe, and then see where our kids lead us in the years to come.
I’m a mom- I want my kids safe, and yours. I’m a child’s advocate and a parents second set of eyes.
It’s of paramount importance. As adults we automatically feel responsible for keeping children safe in the ‘real’ world. As we have now given kids access to virtual worlds, it’s up to us to not only keep them safe, but teach them the importance of keeping themselves safe. This applies to social media, games, educational sites and everything you can think of that children can access on the internet.
What would you change in the course of your work that would make things safer for kids?
I’d continue the fine work being done by IWF and others. Education and discussion, involving parents and children, is key. Real-time moderation is, in my opinion, critical in any online site where children are the target group.
I believe while it’s easy to blame a particular website for their shortcomings, it’s also the responsibility of the parent to be more involved with their child’s online experience. There are many misconceptions parents may hold about the internet and kids’ websites, but in working with parents, helping them become more educated about what we do and also becoming more educated about the laws, tools, and even organizations that are there to report those dangerous individuals, we can better keep kids safe.
Honestly, I would like the anonymity not to be allowed. Ideally each person should have their own personal unique ID; it might be just an idealistic dream but it would really help.
I think we could do more to check identity, like you have to do on sites like PayPal, so identity is more well established. Parents would need to do this to set up accounts for their children and it could well deter any predators from setting up fake accounts, if they need to give a number of other personal details which can identify them easily.
What is the one thing you see happen to kids, or that kids do, all the time when moderating?
I see many kids using the internet or logging into a virtual community and engaging in activities that they may or may not participate in in the real world. Examples of this include using foul language, engaging in cybersex or other sexual activities,bullying, or even hacking/scamming others.
Kids very often feel restricted by their online conversations. With whitelists and blacklists we can often go a way to allowing more free flowing conversation, but they bring other issues into the mix too. Children often don’t appreciate the dangers online and the measures we take to prevent them from them. They want free and easy chat with their online friends. All too often they tried to get usernames to other sites through the chat to meet off site.
The one thing is that they care, and that is the most beautiful thing. Even if it’s about a cyber monster, they care. Even if they don’t know who asked the question, they care.They want to reply as best as they can to puzzles, riddles, funny questions, missions … they do – and it doesn’t matter that will take them two hours to count the 198 eyes or 240 lines on the screen, they will spend the time to do it. We see every day kids trying to do their best, in the game but also in Life. They want to make it, they want to be heard, they want to win, they want to know others and listen others opinions, make friends. And they care for them and others. That is why, the people and companies who create online kids games (and every company dedicated to a children audience) have a great responsibility.
Do you think things online have gotten better or worse? Why?
In general I think people’s awareness of online safety has increased over the years, but the technology is constantly changing, which makes it a race for the moderation world to keep up all the time with changes to ensure safety online.
I think it has become worse as it is normal for kids spend more and more time on their computers/iphones etc in their bedrooms, studies etc. unchaperoned. I was shocked to learn from a young lad of 10 that his mother (and his friend’s mothers) preferred him to be at home on his computer rather than playing sports or riding his bike with his friends – she felt he was safer. When asked if his mother kept an eye on him while he was on his computer his answer was ‘No’ and ‘a lot of the time no one is home at all’. There is a real need for parents to be responsible for knowing who and where their kids are online.
The recent case of poor Amanda Todd [a Canadian teenager who recently committed suicide after being bullied over sexting images] has shown how easy it is for our young actions to haunt and destroy us these days. I think we have to work hard to combat this with moderation/legislation/education/compassion. If her peers had stood up for her the way that Daniel Cui’s friends did [see Facebook's anti-bullying video], she would probably still be alive today.
How have organisations such as IWF, and others to whom you can report content, made a difference?
They work with international law enforcement to take ACTION on cases of child abuse, which is beyond the remit of moderation. They also provide information and tools for parents to help keep their kids safe.
They have given people the confidence to know that things are being done online to protect our children.
If you could tell parents and kids ONE THING to help with online safety, what would it be?
In ‘real’ life we tell our kids not to talk to strangers – this should also apply when kids are online, they really don’t know who they are talking to virtually – so the emphasis has to be stay safe online and do not any divulge personal information.
The old adage: anything that seems too good to be true, probably is. No-one just pops into a random social space to give away tickets to some hot band, that just happens to be playing in some kid’s home town. A little caution, a little cynicism, doesn’t have to spoil the whole online experience.
Only one??? Keep the computer in the kitchen or family room. Your kid does not need a smart phone, just one that makes calls. Spend time with your kid while he/she is online. Review Terms of Service for the sites they want to sign up for. Make sure they understand what they should and should not do, and WHY (don’t just give them arbitrary rules). Above all: you are the parent. Your kid has enough friends already; they’re the ones encouraging him/her to do stupid things.
Remember to keep talking to your kids and help them to understand that what goes online may stay there forever, and be totally out of their control. Help them to withstand the peer pressure they may be feeling, and if they can’t come to you with stuff (maybe it’s too embarrassing?) make sure there’s another trusted adult in their life in whom they can confide.
Read some of the stories together about cyberbullying, sexting, predators. Discuss the issues. Try to get them to understand WHY sharing too much is dangerous, and about how they should be respectful to others on the internet as well as in real life.
If you have any questions about the moderation and community management of children’s sites, please see our white papers:
- How to Moderate Teens and Tweens
- An introduction to using community and interactive advertising to engage tweens and teens
- How to encourage participation and player loyalty in virtual worlds
- Five Techniques for Creating Safer Environments for Children
Or feel free to get in touch with Jennifer M Puckett, eModeration’s Child Safety Liaison Officer.Images courtesy of the flickr streams of Philipe Put, Jim Sneddon, Lars Plougmann, Barbara James, MGloriab, Alyssa L. Miller