Strict Rules in Kids’ Online Communities - dummies

Strict Rules in Kids’ Online Communities

By Deborah Ng

Even enforcing rules as community manager is different in kids’ online communities. You need to post guidelines and comment policies in such a way that both kids and parents can understand what’s expected, as well as any repercussions.

The usual rules apply. Swearing and bullying have no place in a kids’ community, of course, but words that may seem relatively harmless in a grownup community also may be off-limits in a children’s community. For example, if a grownup called something “dumb,” it might not raise a fuss. If a kid said another kid was dumb or an idea was dumb, hurt feelings or even an argument can ensue.

Write guidelines so that kids understand what isn’t acceptable and what types of repercussions happen after unacceptable behavior. Also, kids aren’t necessarily looking for welcome folders and guidelines. Having rules, guidelines, or terms of service available upon signup, requiring members to check a box to say that they read and agree to the guidelines, is probably best.

Here are some common rules in kids’ communities:

  • Be respectful of others.

  • Don’t call names or use insulting or swear words.

  • Don’t threaten or bully other kids.

Make sure that kids know where to find a link to contact the moderator in the event that someone is picking on them or using bad language in their presence.

You’ll find that most kids abide by the rules and play nice. As in any online community, however, there are still a few who like to test the limits or make waves. In that event, make sure that you’re enforcing the rules:

  • Always issue warnings in the event of an infraction. Many times, infractions are innocent because the rule breakers didn’t read up on the rules. Issue a warning. Also tell the rule breaker that this kind of behavior won’t be tolerated and that the next time she speaks to someone in that manner, her account will be suspended for a certain number of days.

  • Contact parents. Make sure that parents know when their kids are breaking the rules. Send a polite note listing the infraction plus the repercussions so that they’re aware of their children’s online behavior.

  • Suspend or ban accounts, if necessary. If a child repeats an infraction, you can get a little stricter with the rules. Suspending an account for 24 hours will certainly show the little rule breaker that you mean business. For repeat offenders, an outright ban may be in order. Make sure that parents are aware of developments.

It’s very rare for younger children’s communities to experience the negativity that teen or grownup communities can face. When a child steps out of line, usually a warning will suffice, and then it’s back to business as usual.