There’s a lot that surprises you when you start a website for kids. Like the fact that it means you’ll be working nights and weekends pretty much from the day you launch. Or the fact that having a tech start up isn’t all that different from having a baby. It’s fun getting it started, it’s painful getting it launched, it burps and spits up a lot in the beginning, and then – hopefully – it goes out in the world on its own. All grown up and ready for prime time.
But mostly, I learned a lot about and from the KidzVuz kids. For example, I had expected tons of videos about tech. After all, a video review website for kids would naturally attract tech-savvy – even tech obsessed kids, right? Wrong. Our number one category is…(drum roll please) BOOKS! Yep. Kids, reading and talking about it. I love that.
And since, last summer, when I spoke at the Digital Family Summit in Philadelphia, I asked a room full of digital-kids whether they read books or e-books, and they all — every single one of them – said books….well, since that happened, I assume the book reviews we are getting are about books that were read on good old fashioned paper.
I kind of like that thought.
Another surprise is that – despite what you hear about cyber-bullying, in my experience, kids online are remarkably nice. With thousands of reviews and comments logged, we have had barely any that were truly mean. Maybe three. (And since we review every comment and watch every review before it goes up, the only people who saw those few comments were KidzVuz employees.)
What we knew when we launched KidzVuz was that Kids needed a place to be heard. The internet is full of places that tell kids about all kinds of stuff – from celebrities and fashion, to history and art. But there aren’t too many places where kids do the telling. And what we found was – kids have a lot to say.
And about a lot of things, too. They talk about travel, and music, and crafting. They describe books and movies. They show off pets…and baby sisters.
And with a little bit of guidance – before kids leave a review they have to answer some questions about what they’re reviewing – they say it quite well. We don’t just hear from kids that they liked a movie, book, or restaurant. We hear why. What was good about it, what wasn’t so good, and who else they think might enjoy it. What surprised me was, even when kids didn’t particularly like something they reviewed, they could always find something nice to say, think of someone else they know who would like it for themselves.
That was something cool to learn from kids: there’s always a positive angle. In the online kid community, snarkiness is less common than niceness. I like that.
So in the end what I’ve learned from KidzVuz is this: Kids, given the chance, the space, and the guidance, will consistently do great things. Be nice to each other, think critically about the things they love, and be thrilled to share it all in an online world.