Safe online community for children in the care of Barnardo’s, a leading UK children’s charity.
“What we wanted most was a safe place where children and young people
can access a network of supportive friends.” – – Silvia Pilotto, Communications Manager, Barnardo’s.
Most Kids are OK Online
Currently millions of children under 13 have Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Etc. accounts. The vast majority of these children manage themselves well on line and come to no harm. These young people, depending on their age and maturity, need a little adult supervision and guidance on how to stay safe wherever they go online. For them we don’t need to be over-protective, but to encourage them to think before they click and help them resist any negative influences.
Vulnerable Kids are at Higher Risk
Some young people however, such as cared-for children and young people with disabilities, can be more vulnerable and if their online behaviour mirrors their real-world behaviour (and there is no reason to suppose it would not) then, research shows they are much more likely to get involved in high risk activity in the social networks with their web cams or on their mobiles. Some also are more likely to be preyed upon by bullies, to be commercially exploited, to be enticed towards sexual, violent or self-harm related content and to be targeted by predators. These children still have a great need to communicate with each other, but they need to do so in safer surroundings.
Pioneering Protected Community
Barnardo’s care for some of the most vulnerable children in the UK and has taken a pioneering lead in providing Barnardo’s Children’s Community – a safe online haven for the children and young people in their care. They particularly wanted to help their disabled young people.
“What we wanted most was a safe place where children and young people can access a network of supportive friends which will ultimately benefit their emotional wellbeing and mental health and prevent the social isolation that so many disabled young people face. We wanted them to have a site they could access no matter what their disabilities, a place where they are not afraid to speak out about issues that impact on their lives and an opportunity to receive professional support for their emotional well being.” – Silvia Pilotto
Barnardo’s asked KOKO to create a specialist protected social network that would initially support it’s disabled young people and then be made available to other Barnardo’s groups around the UK.
The KOKO Community Engine
The KOKO team, drew on years of experience of creating and running safe online communities for children. The community design is informed by the latest research and international guidelines on online child safety practices. KOKO used new generation technologies to create the new kokokonx community engine, which now drove the Barnardo’s Community.
“kokokonx is what we’ve dreamed about for years – a community engine with robust and fully scalable underpinning technology. User safety is hard-wired into the design with safeguards such as Profile Privacy by Default and a Sponsor Validation System, where every member is authenticated by a Barnardo’s approved and CRB-checked Group Sponsor. Flexible Group Functionality allows Sponsors to switch on only the functions they need for their members.” – Robert Hart-Fletcher, Director of KidsOKOnline
Built in access tools make the site easier to use for those with special needs, including Widget point symbols to aid reading (see the symbol pop out for “media” in the banner above), special high contrast colour themes and text zooming to help the visually impaired.
The initial reactions from the young members with disabilities in Northern Ireland who first piloted the project were highly enthusiastic. Within their first session, they had created their personal profiles, uploaded their avatar images, uploaded videos and taken part in their first forum discussions.
That evening they were online from home – social networking safely with their friends and Barnardo’s staff – who were also delighted that the young people in their care could enjoy all the social and learning benefits of social networks without the risks they can face in unprotected networks.
The Northern Ireland Beta tests with disabled youngsters helped Barnardo’s and KOKO to further refine the design and version 2 of the community was rolled out to other Barnardo’s groups, including young carers in Yorkshire and teen and young adult cancer survivors in Lancashire.
“Barnardo’s is looking to actively engage children and young people online in safe and positive ways that help them to reach their fullest potential. KidsOKOnline have helped us make this dream a reality. ” – Silvia Pilotto