I started my career in market research, where soliciting the views of under 16s is frowned upon without rather a lot of faffing around getting hold of parental consent. Online, surveys tend to ask if you’re older than 16, and if not, chuck you out.

On balance, it’s probably a good thing that dubious marketers and market researchers aren’t able to ask intimate questions of youngsters unregulated, but the problem is that similar approaches have tended to be adopted by organisations looking for public comment on policy. Tim Davies, who is basically best described as the all-round guru on strategies for youth engagement through social media, highlighted this problem recently.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I had rather more strongly-held and frankly interesting views on politics and public policy when I was 15 than I do now. To be told to go away isn’t really good enough, if as Tim says, there really isn’t any legal basis for doing so.

So in developing my new platform for online commentable documents, I’m keen to ensure the default moderation policies take a more thoughtful approach to enabling young people to take part, without putting themselves at risk. Thanks to help in the comments of Tim’s post, I’ve come up with this, which I’m hoping to link to from the comments form itself as well as within the standard moderation policy:

If you are aged 16 or under, you may want to talk to your parent/guardian about the ideas on this website and the opinions that you want to express. Please don’t leave any personal details that might identify you (apart from in the email address box, which won’t be published anyway), and you may want to use your first or last name only, rather than your full name.

It’s just a start, and I’d welcome suggestions on how it might be improved.

Photo credit: Morguefile

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I’ve been puzzled when I’ve seen the odd references to (in effect) under 16s not being welcome on various consultation sites from the public sector. Good to see that you’re trying to tackle this.

I wonder if there should also be a reminder (for young and old) that comments may stay on the internet and be found by other people for years to come?