Virtual Connections for Kids and Teens

9 11 2006

PKIDs just opened up forums on its website – come, look, spread the word! One forum is for kids ages 8-12 and the other is for teens ages 13-18.

Forums bring people together and make them feel they’re part of a group connected by similar challenges in life. At PKIDs, the challenges might be living with a chronic infection on some days, and on others, schoolwork or siblings. As a member of one of PKIDs’ forums, a kid or teen has a place to talk about disease issues with others facing similar challenges, or they can just be kids, talking about stuff that interests their age group in general.

With the recent problems surrounding MySpace, Internet safety is a concern for many parents. There is no way to guarantee a child’s safety and parents are ultimately responsible for their children’s access to and use of the Internet. PKIDs has taken the following steps to help make sure that kids/teens have a place where they can be themselves and connect with others, but also stay safe:

•    Parent/guardian approval. Kids ages 8-12 must have the approval of their parent/guardian to join the Kids’ Forum. This serves several purposes:

o    Initiates parent-child conversations about online safety
o    Helps ensure that all forum members meet the age and disease status requirements

•    Supervision. PKIDs’ staff administer both forums. As administrators, we are able to do many things to keep the forums safe and positive, including:

o    Review the list of forum members and “ban” objective usernames or users who bother others on the forums
o    Set differing levels of privacy for the various forums (all forums are currently set at a level which requires a person to register before posting in any of the forums)
o    “Lock” or delete forum topics that are not appropriate
o    Frequent review of forum conversations to check for any “suspicious” activity

•    Welcome message. When a kid/teen joins the forum, they will read a welcome message with tips such as:

o    Tell your parent/guardian and the forum Admin (PKIDs) if someone is bothering you online.
o    NEVER agree to meet in person with someone you meet online, even if they seem really nice.
o    Do not give out your real name or your contact information (such as address, phone, email).

•    Avatars. An avatar is a little photo or graphic that is displayed by a forum member’s username. They help personalize a member’s presence on the forums and add a fun element to being on the forums. At this time, however, we are not allowing avatars on PKIDs forums so that no child can post any personal photos. In the near future, we plan to make the avatar option available in a restricted manner, either by requiring pre-approval of avatars, or by providing a pre-selected set of avatars that users can choose from.

Signing up for the forums is easy – just visit www.pkids.org/vc_forums.php. We are excited about this opportunity to provide our kids with a place where they can be themselves and connect with peers facing the challenges posed by HBV, HCV or HIV/AIDS.  Please contact us at pkids@pkids.org if you have any questions or concerns about the forums.


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