The web’s good for children!

Following the publication of Dr Tanya Byron’s report Safer Children in a Digital World for Ofcom, much is being said in the news media about the dangers for children online. Parents are being frightened into believing the only safe solution is to sit beside their child whilst they are online, or turn off the computer and watch TV instead.

The web is a great place for kids! There are lots of websites that are good for children – offering help with homework, support for their interests, safe social spaces and even advice and education on staying safe online. What do these excellent sites have in common? Good moderation practices. Moderation means that there are people behind the website, people who monitor and if necessary edit or delete the content that children put up, often before it reaches the web. People who make sure that your child is not seeing anything they shouldn’t, or being contacted by anyone inappropriate.

The Byron report specifically recommends the development of an independently monitored voluntary code of practice on the moderation of user-generated content, including making specific commitments on take-down times. Good children’s websites are already following best practices.

Reach Further Ltd. (reachfurther.com) is a Leeds-based specialist in online community and training moderators. Consultant Liz Cable said: “Parents should look for safe online communities designed for their child’s age group, not allow random access to social networking sites. There is a difference, and the difference is safety.”

One of the oldest sites on the Web where children can contribute is Kids on the Net (kidsonthenet.com). Editor Helen Whitehead says “Every piece of writing submitted by a child is checked by a moderator BEFORE it even reaches the website. No information is published that can uniquely identify a child and they cannot contact others except via the moderator. Parents and teachers can be assured that children can enjoy reading and writing in a safe space.”

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