DIY.org – Safe and Creative Social Networking for Kids
January 2, 2014 by Jennifer Johnson
If you’re the parent of a tween or teen, you may have given some thought to the subject of social networking. How young is too young? Which sites are safe for children? Has your child been adequately prepared to interact with others on the internet in a safe and appropriate manner?
DIY.org is a great alternative to sites like Facebook or Instagram for parents who share these concerns. Targeted to children and youth ages 10-18 (there is also an ‘under 10’ option), DIY is a well-moderated social networking site that rewards members for creativity, innovation, and exploration.
This free site encourages users to post photos and videos that meet the requirements of challenges in a variety of skill development areas. Complete three challenges, and earn a scout-like virtual badge. Offerings range from the traditional such as Athlete, Botanist, and Camper, to the contemporary, such as Meme Hacker, Minecrafter, and Data Visionary. A real, embroidered version of any earned badge may be purchased by parents at a cost of $5. Purchase is entirely optional.
Image from DIY.org
Challenges are rated in difficulty from ‘Newb’ to ‘Pro’, and all posted content must be approved by DIY’s staff of moderators before projects become visible to the public. Credit towards badges is only granted to projects that meet the requirements.
Users can also post up non-badge related projects just for fun, and most active users participate in the site socially. Each project has a comments section where kids can chat and alert their friends with Twitter-liked designations of @ and #. Many members use projects to run their own contests, form comment-based ‘chat rooms’, and to solicit requests from followers for things like drawings and fan fiction. Private messages are not allowed, and by logging into the parent account, parents can easily view all child activity.
DIY.org is unique in that so far, I have never seen a user post anything negative or inappropriate. I have cut off my children from more than one mainstream online game designed for kids because of the inane behavior of its users and the failure of the staff to address it. DIY remains a shining exception to the rule, probably attributable to a combination of vigilant moderation, the quality design of the site, and excellence of the community.
The best thing about DIY.org is that while it’s a social networking site, much of its premise is built around kids being creative offline. It provides kids with a wealth of inspiration for things to make and do, and through the site, their efforts are praised and rewarded. It provides the buzz of a video game achievement, only for doing things that are real.
Of course, as well-designed as it is, the same internet safety rules apply to DIY.org as they do to any other internet application that kids might use. Always make sure your children are well-versed in basic internet safety before allowing them to use DIY or any other site. Once you’re ready to take the plunge, however, DIY.org is an excellent site to try.
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