Inspiring a New Generation of Social Platform Users With PopJam

Kids have always been eager to help their parents with the dishes and mow the lawn. Now, they also want to scroll through feeds, just like mom and dad. The problem? Social platforms were never created for kids. They weren’t designed with the creative growth, collective flourishing, and communal safety that kids need to truly become like their parents – not to mention good digital citizens.

The social platform PopJam is that rare commodity — an Instagram-esque platform minus the bullying and negativity that so often plague teen and adult social networks. It’s a sharing platform designed for 7 to 12-year-olds that allows kids to do the very things their parents are doing — making accounts, creating and sharing content, liking and commenting, and engaging with content, brands, and creators — but in a kid-friendly, and most importantly, kid-safe way.

The Discover page in PopJam features games, brands, and popular tags
Kids on PopJam can play games, follow popular kids brands, and search for tags

PopJam is owned and operated by SuperAwesome, the kidtech company whose technology powers privacy-based digital engagement for hundreds of millions of under-16s every month. Their products include kid-safe advertising and monetization platforms, parental consent management services, and privacy certification programs. Given that background, it’s no surprise that PopJam is a flagship of child safety and is used by hundreds of content companies as their community engagement tool with the U13/16 audience.

“PopJam enables a walled garden for kids communities,” says Craig Donaghy, Head of Community Insight and Child Safeguarding at SuperAwesome. “It allows content owners, creators, and brands to create a safe digital space for kids to express themselves, but without revealing themselves.”

The Daily Challenge
The Daily Challenge is a great example of how PopJam encourages kids to express themselves in a social media space usually reserved for adults. A daily creative prompt that can include a challenge to design an original image, decorate an existing image, and more, the Daily Challenge shows off the range of kids on the platform — and gives everyone an opportunity to shine.

The Daily Challenge is akin to Twitter and Facebook’s “What’s happening?” and “What’s on your mind?” prompts, with a dash of Instagram’s photo filters and editing tools.

One recent challenge was to “Draw the first animal you think of beginning with ‘R’’. Responses include a red dragon, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, rats, rabbits, rattlesnakes, and more. And like all kid’s creations, they run the gamut from near-professional to charmingly innocent.

The PopJam Daily Challenge, featuring rats, raccoons, reindeer, and more

PopJam has created a safe space for kids to emulate their parents — but without falling into the “perfection” trap of altered selfies (no selfies allowed) and manufactured poses. On PopJam, every PopJammer is equal.

“There’s no such thing as bad art in PopJam,” says Donaghy. “The kids with creative hearts, who want to make art but might not be quite so talented are still given the tools to create something special.”

Tools include stickers, stamps, and GIFs, which allow kids to express themselves and create art — even if they can’t draw from scratch.

Every day there’s a chance to try something new, or the opportunity to get a shoutout from PopJam staff.

“It’s really important that kids feel seen,” notes Donaghy. “Reward and recognition are huge. And we want to do that in a safe way.”

Safety by design
In order to provide an environment where kids can particulate in a social platform, safety is at the core of the PopJam experience. This is where Community Technology and BI Task Leader Lynn Snyder and Community Engagement Manager Lynn Davis come in.

Unlike many social media platforms for adults, PopJam enforces strict community guidelines, including no selfies or pictures of faces, and no bullying, harassment, profanity, or PII (Personally Identifiable Information). All user-generated content, including artwork and comments, is screened by different combinations of AI, automation, and human review before it’s posted.

“I remember having conversations with Lynn [Snyder] and Lynn [Davis], who were running through moderation practices with me and I remember being fascinated by the way they did it and the amount of care that they both took,” Donaghy recalls.

“The text and image filters invisibly train users how to interact better,” notes Lynn Snyder. “They’ll try to upload a selfie three times, and when it doesn’t even get out of pre-moderation, they’ll give up and try something else.”

Lynn Davis shares a story of that “invisible training” in action.

“We have this great example of a kid trying to say shut up on the app, which they’re not allowed to do. Then they say ‘You’re ugly.’ That doesn’t go through. Then, they try ‘Would you please shut up?’ And then they finally say ‘Will you please be quiet?’ And that goes through!” she says, laughing. “It’s this great example of molding through text filtering. We’re saving them from themselves, in a way.”

Sometimes simply the positive presence of a staff member can have an immediate impact on behavior.

“If we see a post with a negative comment — not inappropriate, just negative — we know that a staff member can jump in and say, ‘Hey, this is brilliant!’ Or, ‘What’s your favorite type of dog?’ And the mood changes just like that. It’s about reminding kids that this is a place for positivity. They learn that the more positive they are, the more likely they are to get positive recognition.”

“You can do that with kids, right?” adds Davis. “If they’re crying or grumpy, you can make them laugh pretty quickly and switch it up.”

The kids appreciate the presence of staff. “We have a lot of staff accounts who post engaging things on a daily basis, and so kids can follow them and interact with staff,” says Davis. “We’re super careful about how we interact with them and we keep it on a kind of a very professional level,” she continues. “It gives it a personal feel. Kids feel like they’re being watched over by adults and that someone really cares about them and their safety.”

The lesson from PopJam is clear: Great moderation is not just about filtering inappropriate content. It’s about moving the needle from the negative to the positive. As Donaghy notes, “It goes beyond moderation; it’s almost like curation.”

Lessons from kids
This authentic connection to kids has helped Donaghy produce a fascinating monthly report called PopJam Kids Insights. Every month, he asks the community three questions. In April 2020, he asked “How are you keeping busy?”, “What’s making you happy?,” and “What music are you listening to?”

The report spans the globe, with insights separated by region, including the UK, US/Canada, and Australia.

To no one’s surprise, in April kids were talking about the coronavirus pandemic. But that didn’t stop them from also discovering the Roblox game “Piggy”, loving the new Animal Crossing game for the Switch, and they continued to rave about TikTok.

The PopJam April Insights Report
From the April Insights Report

The PopJam Kids Insights report gives the team valuable insights into kids’ trends and it also helps them create new and engaging daily content — and prevents them from losing touch with a fast-changing online culture.

“Kids don’t just sit around and watch the same thing over and over again,” says Davis. “The second that we give them content that’s a year off or even five months off, we look out of touch.”

Not only has PopJam found a way to provide a safe social sharing platform designed specifically for kids in a space usually reserved for adults; they’ve also kept their fingers on the pulse of kid culture while still complying with crucial privacy policies.

Moving forward
PopJam is a shining example of a kids’ social platform that encourages positivity, kindness, and creativity — the very features that adult social platforms are so often lacking. Through PopJam, kids can learn how to be good digital citizens. And with any luck, they will carry those lessons over to the next platform they visit, ensuring that the next generation of social media users is far more generous than the last.

So what does the future hold for PopJam? The team has a keen interest in fostering smaller communities on the platform.

“We’re continuing to explore trends and kids being part of sub-communities.” says Donaghy. “What does it look like if you’re an animal fan rather than an artist? How can your interests shape your experiences online?”


If you enjoyed this piece, check out our other Community Spotlights!

Kidzworld – The World’s First Social Network for Kids

Kano Computing – It’s Not About the Code, It’s About the Creativity

Client Spotlight: Kidzworld

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.

Kidzworld Logo

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.

Early adopters

James Achilles

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.

Jordan Achilles

“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.”

Roleplay forums in Kidzworld
The roleplay forums in Kidzworld

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.”

Looking ahead
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.”

Gary, the Kidzworld mascot


Learn more about Kidzworlds’ commitment to safety on the parent and teacher resources section on their website. Read about their safety guidelines here.

And don’t forget to check out the kid-friendly content, from quizzes to movie reviews, and everything in between!