Help Your Kids Be Safe While Building Community Online

Connected Camps offers a variety of camps, clubs, and courses. Participants learn valuable skills for today’s digital world through these programs. Kids improve computer skills and build understanding of subject matter like ancient history, physics, and engineering. Equally as important, Connected Camps will support you as you help your children learn how to build community and be good digital citizens.

Let’s talk about how kids interact online, safety and digital citizenship on Discord and other platforms, and how Connected Camps helps youth develop skills.

How Kids Interact Online

In Connected Camps programs, youth play in a fun atmosphere, build new skills, and create an online community of friends. In her 5-star review of Survival Club in Minecraft, Linda said her son “met a nice friend who shares his interest in Minecraft… I would recommend to any parent who is looking for a safe space to communicate with other like-minded Minecrafters.”

Many of us learned during COVID that connecting online has many positive impacts. Youth and adults alike benefitted from maintaining social ties online. Those communities continue to be important. Many kids are already active on platforms like Discord, YouTube, and Tik Tok—even if they are below age 13. It’s important for caregivers to be aware of what they’re engaging with online and to help guide their development.

Online Safety and Digital Citizenship

Connected Camps co-founder Katie Salen Tekinbaş is a researcher at the University of California, Irvine, and a mother of tweens. Drawing on her professional and personal experience, she advocates for families to engage with their kids and mentor them as they become increasingly active online.

“Building trust with your kids around their use of a platform like Discord is really important. Rather than trying to keep them off Discord, educate them about how to stay safe on the platform. If they know you are there as a support, they are more likely to come to you if something goes wrong.”

For example, Connected Camps utilizes Discord as a platform for youth to communicate with each other while they play in our Kid Club server. Our guidelines mirror those published by Discord. We encourage caregivers of kids under 13 to be the account owners, with the adult’s name, email, and phone number linked to the account. The adult then allows their child to use that Discord account to enhance participation in our programs. A caregiver creating an account for their child under 13 should enter a birthdate that is between 13 – 17 years old so that there are still Discord’s youth account protections in place.

Discord has loads of servers (themed connecting spaces), so when a child is signed up for Discord and joins the Connected Camps server, they are then able to seek out other servers and join them as well. Caregivers should be involved in learning about the variety of spaces offered and support their learner in finding other safe Discord servers that match their interests—there are plenty!

This Discord blog post offers practical tips for safety practices:

  • Caregivers should toggle off the “Allow direct messages from server members” setting to block DMs from users in a server who aren’t on your friends list
  • For friend requests, toggle to Friends of Friends (most secure), or at the very least, Server Members (only allows messages from other members of our Kid Club and Experience Craft Discord servers)
  • Use Discord’s built-in privacy tools to filter messages with explicit media content
  • Work with youth to learn and apply general online safety practices, such as being suspicious about links and keeping personal information to yourself

Teaching Kids About the Online World

There are many resources to equip adults and youth to enjoy and explore the vast information and community possibilities online, while being safe and smart. In addition to this blog, Common Sense Media helps inform about online options and good practices.

In this post about spending time online with family at home, Connected Camps co-founder Mimi Ito described how her family plays games and pursues interesting learning goals online together. This core concept of family collaboration is key. Don’t just give kids free reign online, but collaborate with and mentor them.

Connected Camps takes our role seriously. Through near-peer mentorship and moderation of shared spaces, Connected Camps can help your learners develop important skills for safely engaging online and making friends around the world. Our counselors support campers with building safe internet habits.

Whether they’re watching funny videos, learning new facts, or building friendships and communicating with others—kids spend a lot of time online. Connected Camps is honored to partner with you, helping youth develop smart habits online as they have fun and learn.