A Positive Online Experience for Our Children

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Despite the challenges that we face in the area of safe social networking for kids, I absolutely love and support everything that my company is doing to create a safer, more positive online experience for children.  After reading Melanie Schreffler’s piece in YPulse titled The New Millennial Mindset: Positive is as Positive Does, I couldn’t help but think of the really inspiring ways Yoursphere.com members are using social media.

In Melanie’s article, she calls it “the ‘me-centric’ webiverse”. She points out the overwhelming amount of negative and narcissistic social qualities that mainstream social networks like Facebook and Twitter facilitate, and how youth may be searching for something more positive to take a break from it all.

“…they risk running into cyberbullies, identity thieves, trolls lurking in the comments sections… Even on social media sites, where they’re surrounded by “friends,” they can occasionally feel harassed.”

Melanie uses the website Pinterest in her example, explaining that the social sharing site allows people to engage with each other “without the fear of flaming”.

“They come together around a shared interest — rather than self-interest — so there’s little to criticize or make fun of.”

Needless to say, I find the shift from self-involved social media to selfless social media interesting, and frankly, just in time. I think young people are beginning to realize the power of social media and how, beyond making friends and staying in touch, it can be used to spread knowledge, kindness and support for others. This is, and always has been the philosophy behind Yoursphere.

Like Pinterest, where people connect on a shared interest, Yoursphere members can create spheres (think of Groups in Facebook) around a particular interest they have. As long as it’s age-appropriate, the sphere can be about anything. And our members have really taken this feature into their own hands, creating some very unique and inspiring spheres.

Every month, we feature a sphere on the homepage, giving its creator recognition and a moment to shine, while facilitating social engagement and encouraging others to follow suit.

I get asked all the time “How do you help keep kids from bullying each other or from posting inappropriate content in Yoursphere?” My answer is always the same and one that most people find surprising: “In addition to using a combination of technology and human oversight, our members really police themselves.” We tell members, “Yoursphere is a community of respect and positive interaction”. Reinforcement of this rule starts early and continues throughout their experience on the site. In fact, during registration we ask every child to check a box that says they understand this.

The Golden Rule is so widespread throughout the site that members have come to understand that that’s just how things work in Yoursphere. It’s not just the bad that our members bring to our attention, either. I can’t tell you how many times we have received feedback where a member shared how nice another member has been to them, or how they witnessed an inspiring act of kindness in the site.

As parents, we can help start our children off in the right direction by introducing them to a community that fosters their special interests; a community where they can share their opinions without being ridiculed by someone who has an opposing perspective; a community of positive thinkers where everyone is accepted for who they are, not who they should be. It’s time for us to drop the mindset that social networks are “one size fits all” because, frankly, they aren’t.

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