With many schools shut down indefinitely and the summer break approaching soon, it’s more important than ever that children have safe online spaces to share and make new friends.
We recently caught up with Executive Vice President James Achilles and Community Manager Jordan Achilles of Kidzworld to discuss how they are keeping kids connected.
First of its kind
The first truly safe and secure kids’ social network, Kidzworld began life in 2001 as an online magazine for kids, long before kid-friendly content was widely available online. In 2007, Kidzworld recognized that kids wanted more than just online content – they were also looking for safe spaces to chat and make new friends. Ahead of the explosion of kid-oriented social networks, Kidzworld introduced their own moderated chat room, forums, and profiles for young internet users.
Like many organizations at the time, Kidzworld originally used an in-house blacklist/whitelist to moderate their social features, with moderators manually enteri
ng new words and phrases to the lists based on community trends. “At one point, we even manually turned the chat room on and off, based on when our moderators were available to watch the chat in real-time,” says James Achilles, Executive Vice President at Kidzworld Media.
As technology evolved and the needs of a childrens’ social network changed, Kidzworld looked to new solutions to make their moderation process smarter and more efficient, and to provide their users with a safe platform that still allowed freedom of expression.
An early adopter of Two Hat’s chat filter and content moderation platform Community Sift, Kidzworld met with CEO and founder Chris Priebe in 2012 to help build the chat filter using their data. In 2017 they officially came on board. “We wanted to see how we could evolve as a filter and allow the kids so much more freedom,” says James. “That’s when we came to Community Sift because it allowed the kids to say certain words but only within a certain context.”
What is the biggest change in moderation that Kidzworld has seen over the years? “The freedom and flexibility with words and phrases which didn’t exist when we started,” James says.
The team also uses other techniques to enforce community guidelines.
“We have auto-messaging set up through Community Sift,” says Online Community & Web Content Manager Jordan Achilles. “If a user hits a certain threshold, they get a warning on both the negative and positive. There are messages that say What you’re saying isn’t allowed, review the rules. But on the flip side, we can reward the user, with a message like You’ve been communicating well! You are now a trusted user, which gives them more freedom to chat.”
The community itself is generally positive, adds Jordan. “They come to me online all the time to let me know if they saw a message that just didn’t feel right, or if someone is asking weird questions. That is so beneficial to us. We have a reporting system that is really great when the kids can just report one message and they know that I’m going to look at the rest of the messages and see what the other user’s intention is.”
A virtual playground
Today, thanks to this robust moderation platform, Kidzworld is a bustling online community, made up of kids from across the globe.
“They come here to catch up with each other, go in the chat room and be silly or go in the forums and do different role plays,” says Jordan. “ The roleplay forums are where the strongest community of friends exist because they rely on each other to have that communication for the story threads, these fantasy stories that they’ve created. They create these stories with each other each day; one person posts and then they respond to each other, creating a full story.”
The Kidzworld role-playing forums are truly wonderful. Full of interactive, text-only stories set in TV sitcoms, hospitals, the worlds of Marvel and Harry Potter, school, and original worlds, they are places where a child’s imagination can run wild.
“The forums are where we’ve seen a huge change with the flexibility of the filter,” says Jordan. “Some of the stuff that they’re saying, random characters or different personality traits, our previous filter would block and reject.”
It also helps that the Kidzworld team has full access to the moderation platform and can update it in real-time. “If a weird obscure name that they’ve created for the roleplay character is blocked, I can approve it and even add it to the filter so it’s not blocked again,” Jordan says.
“It’s so cool to see their imaginations go. And that’s why we’re so happy to give them this space,” adds Jordan. “They can be these different people that they want to be online and it creates a space for them to let their imagination run wild and write stories and be someone that they can’t necessarily be in real life.”
Asked what the future holds for Kidzworld, James Achilles says, “We love seeing more and more kids on the site. It is great for them to take advantage of all the opportunities on the site. The kids that are here love it and they’re consistent users. We would like to be more widely known for everything we have to offer kids. We are always looking for ways to improve the site. Right now we are working on some new technology, in partnership with Community Sift, that we know the kids are going to love.”