Yesterday my daughter watched me acting on my favorite SE site. She essentially said:

"Hey, that's cool. Can you recommend me a me a site there, where I could go to with my bunch of questions I have to ask?"

I admittedly had to deny her going here, since

  1. She's going to get 12 that month (IIRC minimum age to legally participate at SE is 13, correct me if I'm wrong)

  2. Her english skills aren't well developed enough, to participate in internationally aimed sites

I've done more research then later and found this beautiful site1, specifically designed for children's questions.

They're controlling more questions, and missing topics coming in from the interested children via e-mail.

I appreciate this model somehow, since (vs. a forum or SE), it's moderated by adults, and directed e-mail channels.
Though adults have their "blinders" strapped on, and may totally miss the question.
Also it keeps the kids safe from any totally off question attends of pedophile nature or such.

I've been infected now with the thought, if it would be possible to make up a site using the SE engine, that is specifically designed for

  • childrens asking
  • mainly children answering
  • decent moderation by adults, merely keeping them safe
  • probably language specific, since we can't expect children to be familiar with english to ask well formed questions

I know it's kind of opinion based, but could you imagine one goes well and have the right controls at hand, to set up such kind of sites with SE (in Area51)?

As @Oded and others confirmed the point, that it generally wouldn't be legal for children younger than 13, besides parent's explicit agreement, which apparently can't be managed properly,


I still think that +13 year aged teens till at least 16 need to be treated as children, and it would be a good idea to give them protection level moderated sites.

1)Sorry it's in german, and that's also part of the question somehow. But I'd suppose everyone else here might be intelligent enough to extrapolate this for their native languages.

  • 7
    Nice idea, but data protection laws... Sites cannot knowingly store data about under 13 year olds without a lot of work as you said. It's not just a SE rule.
    – Tim
    Jun 11 '15 at 20:07

Unfortunately, this isn't possible because laws.

Stack Exchange is an American company and needs to comply with american laws, in this case COPPA - Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, effective April 21, 2000, applies to the online collection of personal information from children under 13. The new rules spell out what a Web site operator must include in a privacy policy, when and how to seek verifiable consent from a parent and what responsibilities an operator has to protect children's privacy and safety online.

Now, I am not a lawyer, and this is my personal understanding of this law (anyone who knows better should correct me / this post, please):

In order to let children under 13 use Stack Exchange sites effectively (that means login), we need to collect some personal information from them - if nothing else, that means a login, which may be traced to them. In turn that means we need "verifiable consent from a parent". As you can imagine, that's where the problem lies and is the reason we don't allow under 13s on the sites.

Making a site for children doesn't change this law and the requirement to comply with it :(

  • So club penguin works by asking for parental consent. This is a shame - I really wish children could learn from the next gen encyclopaedia. I got one 10 years ago, when I was 6, and this is such an amazing resource. What are the UK laws?
    – Tim
    Jun 11 '15 at 20:12
  • @Tim - as far as I know, nothing like the US. I've never heard of such a requirement here.
    – Oded
    Jun 11 '15 at 20:13
  • Well, I was expecting such legal restrctions for under 13's as mentione. Though over 13's still are children and might want to see 1. Channels appropriate for them 2. Being protected by adult moderation. Jun 11 '15 at 20:14
  • @πάνταῥεῖ I think when a child is 13 they are capable of participating in an adult site... They are at secondary / high school or whatever...
    – Tim
    Jun 11 '15 at 20:15
  • @Tim Oh, dare that! Especially at this age, they're most exposed to get themselves in danger regarding online contacts. Your thoughts of capability / responsibility are just naive IMHO. Jun 11 '15 at 20:17
  • 1
    @πάνταῥεῖ - completely with you on that, having children myself... Seems like an arbitrary age restriction on behalf of the US government.
    – Oded
    Jun 11 '15 at 20:18
  • @πάνταῥεῖ I do see your point... I guess it could be down to the parent. But, with the right restrictions (time / content) I think a child could be safe on-line - I, for example, have my own content filter to remove bad stuff... I do wish this could work... As the UK has no / less laws could SE do something that way?
    – Tim
    Jun 11 '15 at 20:20
  • @Oded "Seems like an arbitrary age restriction on behalf of the US government." Yeah, sadly enough, that answers my question why it's actually not possible with SE. Still my question: Would a clone of the SE engine running elsewhere (not under US legal rights) be able to fulfill, and manage the particular constraints for children? Jun 11 '15 at 21:30
  • @πάνταῥεῖ - that's a good question, one I am not qualified to answer. I think such a site is possible but would need a lot of adult moderation. A lot. Not sure it would be sustainable.
    – Oded
    Jun 12 '15 at 6:21

I'll expand a bit on one part of ᔕᖺᘎᕊ's answer: content quality.

Children (which I use here to mean people under 13) can ask great questions. I've seen many questions on Stack Exchange prefaced with "My daughter/son asked me this and I'm stumped." They have the ability to have simple insights. They look at the world in a broader way than adults (people over 18) do.

But can they write good answers? Therein lies the problem. I ask questions on Stack Exchange with the assumption that the folks who answer really know what they're talking about. I'm grateful to the professionals who devote a lot of their time to the network. I couldn't learn some of the stuff I've learned anywhere else.

Children are not experts. Perhaps I seem a bit hypocritical, given that I'm still a minor in most jurisdictions (though of course years past 13). But when I was 13, I knew virtually nothing, even compared to what I know now (which is still a tiny part of everything out there). No offense meant, but children will probably not write answers as helpful as experts will.

As an aside, there won't be a lot of content on the site when compared with most Stack Exchange sites. Let's face it, most children don't know the intricacies of, say, Python, and chances are, they're not experts in the depths of calculus. They'll have a hard time getting past the basics - not necessarily because they can't handle the advanced stuff, which is true in many cases - but because it's pretty hard to find places to learn advanced things.

Here are some more specific points.

decent moderation by adults, merely keeping them safe

I don't think that most parents would agree with this. Strangers are strangers. The parents will most likely never meet the folks moderating the site. Would they really be willing to place a lot of trust in them?

The alternative to this is moderation by the children, for the children. Yet you can't assume that someone on the other end is a child. On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog. Or a unicorn, on Stack Exchange.

I still think that +13 year aged teens till at least 16 need to be treated as children, and it would be a good idea to give them protection level moderated sites.

Umm . . . Hi there.

I don't know how I feel about this. There are quite a few moderators on Stack Exchange who are 16 or younger, and they/we have quite a bit of maturity. Protection is nice - I'll take that - but I think that you'd have to choose your ideas carefully there.

  • 1
    "But can they write good answers?" They also find out very quickly themselves very often. Being given the right hint or nudge, or stumble over in research. And most importantly they are able to transport that knowledge a lot more efficient to their peers, as it ever would be acknowledged from an adult. Just watch the school-yards. Jun 11 '15 at 20:39
  • 4
    @πάνταῥεῖ You'd need a lot of hints to write the kind of answers people have come to expect.
    – HDE 226868
    Jun 11 '15 at 20:40
  • You're seemingly just being another arrogant and ignorant adult, I certainly don't want to believe you ;-) Jun 11 '15 at 20:42
  • Quality is in the eye of the inspector, isn't it?? Jun 11 '15 at 20:43
  • 5
    @πάνταῥεῖ Wow, that's the first time someone's used maturity as a bad thing in my case! Seriously, though, have you ever looked at Q+As from places like NASA? I think you don't give adults enough credit.
    – HDE 226868
    Jun 11 '15 at 20:43
  • 1
    @πάνταῥεῖ Regarding the definition of quality: Who do you think can write a better answer? An expert, of a non-expert?
    – HDE 226868
    Jun 11 '15 at 20:47
  • I don't think you give childs enough credit to be serious with questions, and their capabities answering them for their peers. The NASA guys should certainly listen to learn some basics from them. Jun 11 '15 at 20:47
  • 8
    @πάνταῥεῖ I'm 16. There are mods who are 14, and good at it. I do have to agree with HDE, children simply don't have the knowledge and the skill to write consistently accurate and good answers. I know my answers 1 / 2 years ago are awful compared to now. I can't imagine what they'd have been if I'd been answering at 10.
    – Tim
    Jun 11 '15 at 20:47
  • 2
    @πάνταῥεῖ Again, I'm 16, too. I'm not trying to trash kids. Like Tim, I can look back and see that my first answers - and questions - were pretty poor when I first started on Stack Exchange.
    – HDE 226868
    Jun 11 '15 at 20:48
  • I'd also like to point out that my brother and sister don't have the attention span to sit there and answer well, or the willingness to help others so much. They like their games on friv.com. Remember friv @HDE? :P
    – Tim
    Jun 11 '15 at 20:50
  • @Tim Children have visions, where adults mostly have ""blinders" strapped on". That's a thing that cost the NASA about a decent number of millions of dollars a year. Jun 11 '15 at 20:50
  • 2
    @πάνταῥεῖ but those visions are unfocused, and unrefined they might want to build CERN in their back yard, but I'm pretty sure they can't. Visions don't turn into quality answers - they can turn into ideas with an adult's assistance but I don't think any child is going to be forming the standard of answers here.
    – Tim
    Jun 11 '15 at 20:53
  • @Tim I've actually never heard of it. But, πάνταῥεῖ, I don't think that adults have blinders strapped on when it comes to answers. Yes, children are certainly more curious, which can help them quite a bit. But I don't see how a supposed lack of imagination hurts answers. It's imagination that's helped NASA get to the Moon - imagination like fitting a square canister in a round hole.
    – HDE 226868
    Jun 11 '15 at 20:53
  • @Tim You're a child yourself, and ditch other childs being the unconscious babies?? That's childish ;-) Jun 11 '15 at 20:54
  • 2
    @πάνταῥεῖ I never said either of those words, don't twist what I say. I'm using my own memories as well as observations of my own brother and sister to say why it wouldn't work...
    – Tim
    Jun 11 '15 at 20:56

I can see a few problems with this idea, although not bad, it would need a lot of thought if it was going to be successful.

The main problems:

  • What would the site scope be?

Stack Exchange isn't going to change it's model to let children ask and answer questions - so there would need to be a well-defined scope stating what's on-topic and what's off-topic

This, again links back to scope - what would the children ask? And would other children know about this? Will they be able to provide high quality answers? Because, again SE will always want sites with high quality posts and they probably won't make a site that doesn't do that

  • Why would the moderators monitor the site if adults are not really supposed to answer

This sounds a bit weird - but mods on sites are mods because they are enthusiastic about the topic the site talks about and because they want to help the site prosper - will they really want to be mods to a site where they can't gain knowledge relevant to them?

So, I don't think the SE platform is fit for this kind of site! Sorry!

  • Not asking for a particular scope, but probably many sites, just setup right for kids. Jun 11 '15 at 20:15

What's wrong with just letting 13-16 yo participate on regular sites? I'm not sure why they need a specific site just for them.

  1. Many under-18 year olds participate successfully on SE sites, so it's not like they are excluded from regular sites.
  2. I don't think moderation is an issue: Stack Exchange is relatively safe and professional, even when compared to sites dedicated solely to children.
  3. The whole point in anyone participating in Stack Exchange is to learn things. Wouldn't teenagers learn more from experienced adults than from other teenagers?
  • 4
    The question was originally about sub-13-year-olds, not 13-16-year-olds
    – HDE 226868
    Jun 11 '15 at 22:44
  • 2
    @HDE226868 I think most of these points apply, just add in legal issues etc. I don't really know what sub-13 year-olds would get from their own SE: they wouldn't learn anything because all the experts would be on different sites. Writing SE answers and questions is a great way to improve your writing/knowledge because otherwise you will be downvoted, you lose that in a site for children.
    – user160606
    Jun 11 '15 at 23:11

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