PopJam is a safe space for kids to express themselves, but Covid-19 content requires careful curation.

PopJam is our moderated content-sharing platform for kids. It’s a digital playground, and now that school is taking place online, a safe space for kids to express themselves online is more important than ever.

Kids are allowed to talk about Covid-19 on PopJam, and they are talking about it plenty. In January there was only one mention of Covid-19. In February, 611. In March 9,334. So far in April (1st-6th), there have been 2,017 mentions. Other words that have been used more since January 2020 are coronavirus, lockdown and isolation. Also notable, is that PopJammers used the word bored around 154,000 times in Feb and around 192,000 times in March.

When we say kids are allowed to talk about Covid-19, that doesn’t mean that they can say what they want. It’s a sensitive subject and whilst it’s important for us to create a space where kids can express themselves, they have to learn that they need to do this responsibly, which means considering others and not scaring or upsetting kids that may feel worried. Many negative words are already blocked, as standard, but sensitive issues need sensitive moderation and curation. Talk of extreme illness or death are not allowed on PopJam ever, and especially now. Equally important is ‘fake news’ or misinformation surrounding Covid-19, which is monitored and removed.

Kids being kids, they have reacted differently to Covid-19. Many are worried. This went from one big adventure or one big enemy to something that could make their family, particularly grandparents, very sick. Some kids were very worried, but now they’re in lockdown it’s all quite exciting. In their bubble, they’re secure enough to be bold and brave. Many kids flit between feeling anxious and sad, and bored and excited.

So, what content are kids creating about Covid-19? Really, it’s not that different from content we’d normally see kids create. Kids like to inform each other about current events and share their direct thoughts or concerns. Kids like to express themselves with drawings too: the virus is taking the shape of a green viral blob (which is no surprise when it’s the default image for every news broadcast or online piece), and original characters and Gacha are now wearing face masks.

We’re also seeing kids advising each on how to be safe – mostly by staying home and by washing their hands (as well-intentioned as this can be, we do keep an eye out for anything mythical and misleading). UK PopJammers are drawing rainbows and thanking the NHS and key workers and all those helping.

Kids do attempt to post memes, ranging from ones they’ve created to mentioning TikTok trends (search for “It’s corona time!”). Jokes and humorous content needs to be assessed by us to make sure it’s okay for the community, but community members will also create rules for each other ‘Do not post jokes about Covid-19. It’s serious!’.

Lockdown and isolation have left PopJammers feeling bored. They have A LOT of school work to do, and there is some novelty at being ‘homeschooled’. They are spending more time online (we’ve had a few kids telling us they’re NOT impressed by our closing hours) and gaming and Disney+ have taken up some time. They miss their freedom, their BFFs and their grandparents and wish they had Nintendo Switches, Animal Crossing and pets.

We don’t just want kids to only talk about Covid-19 though – their lives are still full of adventure and drama and friends and unicorns and grumps. We’ll provide the same ideas, inspiration, puzzles and recognition of good community behaviour as always, PLUS we’ll be making more boredom-busting content, focusing on online safety, wellbeing, positivity and just being silly and fun!

Kids are going to continue to create, connect and communicate, but they will be doing this online. That’s why we’re proud that PopJam is a moderated space for under 13s to play, and that SuperAwesome is making their digital world safer, especially at a time when it’s the only world they have access to explore.

Craig Donaghy is Head of Community Insight and Child Safe-guarding for PopJam, the largest kid-safe social content platform.