Sites for teenagers?
August 21, 2010 7:15 PM   Subscribe

Online communities for a young person, canhascheezburger style? My son is twelve (and a half) and I'm looking to guide him towards slightly more adult sites without dropping him into a pit of voles.

Without getting all political I want sites that have the least amount of racist undercurrents and least amount of egregious sexism. At the same time I'm pretty happy for a freewheeling style with regards to sex/drugs/rock and roll, we can talk about things like that and I'm not looking to censor his internet experience so much as keep an eye on it for troublesome rape culture stuff, etc.

For context, I've always let him watch more adult sci-fi stuff if he wanted to and he's got pretty adult-lyric tastes in music. Online he pretty much sticks with facebook, failbooking, canhascheezburger and stuff like that, but he's getting bored and wants to participate a bit more.

So if I suggested lurking around on 4chan would that scar him for life? I've never really hung out there but what I've seen seemed harmless enough. Or are there newer sites where all the kids go now? His friends aren't internet types except for WoW and they don't hang out on WoW forums, is there one that isn't totally tits or gtfo?

I'd like him to experience internet communities because I've made some really good RL friends over the years but I'm worried about the overall cultures that I'm totally out of touch with. I didn't even know what a juggalo was until a couple of months ago and I'm getting flaily.
posted by shinybaum to Society & Culture (29 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Eek, I'm afraid I don't have any suggestions other than 4chan is a baaaad idea :S
posted by torisaur at 7:28 PM on August 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've never really hung out there but what I've seen seemed harmless enough.

You're joking, right? 4chan is pretty much the only place on the web I'm occasionally disgusted.
posted by phrontist at 7:29 PM on August 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

is there one that isn't totally tits or gtfo?

It's worth noting this is a phrase born of 4chan.
posted by phrontist at 7:30 PM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Try Habbo Hotel? It's a chat site aimed at teenagers...I don't remember much about it, but it has public and private chat rooms, including some aimed at different interests.

I would not send a 12 year old to 4chan, regardless of how "adult" they are.
posted by kro at 7:31 PM on August 21, 2010

:) so 4chan is a bad idea. Okay.

You're joking, right?

No, I only know about anonymous and scientology and memes. Good to know it isn't a good internet starting place.
posted by shinybaum at 7:33 PM on August 21, 2010

Without getting all political I want sites that have the least amount of racist undercurrents and least amount of egregious sexism.

Maybe I'm a fringe case, but these two things were already well-established on my BS detector by 12. Which is to say, for me the big deal wasn't keeping me away from that kind of thing, it was educating me about it beforehand so I'd see it for the pack of lies it is. Arguably, sexism still passes under the radar through most of our culture, and racism while more frequently called out can be more prevalent online. Which makes both hard to avoid.

I can't think of any community I've frequented (apart from metafilter) that didn't have sexist jokes or racist comments, but that's largely because any community of sufficient size will have those things unless it is specifically and heavily moderated to remove those. I guess I'm in the camp that sexist/racist comments aren't harmful to a person who sees them as the failing they are. You might want to let your son find communities organically, then look at the ones he starts going to. I say that because communities can be a personal preference and even if we do make some great suggestions, he might not like them anyway. Sorry I don't have any specific ideas for you, good luck!
posted by Phyltre at 7:52 PM on August 21, 2010

I saw just about everything on the Internet by the time I was 15, I don't think 12 is too young for 4chan. Sure he'll be immature and start flame wars, but best to get it out of his system now.
posted by Sonic_Molson at 8:00 PM on August 21, 2010

I can't think of any community I've frequented (apart from metafilter) that didn't have sexist jokes or racist comments,

That's true. I just don't want to send him to the worst of the worst, like 4chan apparently :)

He's looked around and not found anything he likes, probably because there's no starting point for him. I'm not sure how metafilter can help with this except that I would check out any suggestions and see if he liked them?

Maybe I should have been more specific - he likes Torchwood, Dr Who, Angel the Series, funny cats on youtube, rock music from videogames (but isn't into talking about videogames all the time). He's not into anything on a level that would make me look for say, a Dr Who forum, so I was looking more generally. Or maybe there's an xbox or WoW forum that is known for teenagers hanging out there.

Or more like Teenagers These Days: how the f**k do they work?
posted by shinybaum at 8:01 PM on August 21, 2010

Does your son play WoW, too? Even he and his friends don't want to use the official WoW forums, they may join a guild and hang out on their guild's forums. My guild has one and it's not strictly about WoW; we have a "general" forum with all manner of posts. While the content is sometimes sexual (because we are a guild of adults), their guild site might be more child friendly, if they know your son and his friends are young.

Facebook (and related games) are fun, but you might consider having him branch out to look at more blog-type things where he can comment/participate more. Can't really be more specific without knowing his interests, though.

I would also echo everyone else that 4chan is really not the place for younger teen. He will probably end up there on his own at some point in his teen surfing years, but I wouldn't encourage it as a parent, heh.

Just keep in mind that wherever he is, he probably shouldn't have his own account until he turns 13. Otherwise he/the website is violating COPPA if he has to provide any info, even his email address to sign up.
posted by asciident at 8:07 PM on August 21, 2010

He does play WoW but he's in his dad's guild, so he might feel a bit censored. I get all his youtube replies and whatnot because I used to want to keep a close eye on what he was getting into online.

look at more blog-type things where he can comment/participate more.

Yes, I think this is a better idea as an introduction. I'll look around for some sci-fi/music type blogs.
posted by shinybaum at 8:15 PM on August 21, 2010

Television without Pity has active forums for pretty much every show you can think of. I would recommend checking them out if he'd like to interact with other fans.
posted by heatherann at 8:25 PM on August 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Deviant Art? It's oriented for people interested in art--Anime and Manga are pretty heavily represented, and my daughter was on it in middle school. He's probably too old for Neopets.

Live Wire


But any forum/blog suggested by a 'rent is hopelessly lame, as I'm sure you know.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:43 PM on August 21, 2010

I was going to recommend TWoP as well.
posted by mmascolino at 9:04 PM on August 21, 2010

Get him started as a Wikipedia editor!!!

It's not just a kind-of-reliable-a-lot-of-the-time massive open source encyclopedia... it's also a massive vibrant community with close friendships and camaraderie, breathtaking trivialities and astonishing erudition, bitter vendettas between rivals and dramatic electoral struggles, deceptions and detectives, ideological factions and clashes over honor, negotiations about rules and debates about freedom, selfless heroics and self-glorifying labors -- all in the name of the greatest to-a-large-extent-fairly-trustworthy-user-curated-public-knowledge project ever known!

(It might just improve his homework too if he doesn't just copy and paste, and also learns to verify references and sources properly)
posted by Bwithh at 9:04 PM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks, that was exactly what I was looking for to show him there's a whole internet out there. Funny I'm a member of TWoP and DevArt and never considered them for him. At least he should be able to start out from them as basically decent sites even if he ends up elsewhere later :)
posted by shinybaum at 9:37 PM on August 21, 2010

shinybaum : "I've always let him watch more adult sci-fi stuff if he wanted to &hellip he likes Torchwood, Dr Who, Angel the Series … He's not into anything on a level that would make me look for say, a Dr Who forum, so I was looking more generally … I'll look around for some sci-fi/music type blogs."

The SFX forums are pretty good for general SF-type stuff (esp. UK - but also US - tv, movies, books, etc) and well-moderated (largely self-moderated) to a teen-acceptable level. Outpost Gallifrey tends to be a bit more Who-focussed and rambunctious, but may also suit (it's also closed viewing, so you can't check it out without registering).

2nding the TWoP forums; although down a bit from their heydey, they're still pretty good. He might also have fun over at tvtropes.
posted by Pinback at 9:51 PM on August 21, 2010

The closest thing I've found to a MetaFilter-like community that's not MetaFilter is the Straight Dope Message Boards. The various sub-forums vary in their level of erudition and civility, but in general the participants are pretty smart, non-judgemental, and open-minded. Guest accounts are available for 30 days, so he can check it out and see what he thinks of it.
posted by Johnny Assay at 10:25 PM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

It sounds like he might really like to make his own tumblr blog. He could follow other tumblrs that post things about his sci fi shows and his other myriad interests, and post about his own opinions and things he likes. There are a good number of young people on tumblr these days, and having a blog is always fun. He can express himself any way he likes! It's like having his very own website! You should just make sure that you keep an eye on the tumblrs he's following. There can definitely be some naked people and cursing and all that, but I haven't seen much nasty misogynist nonsense. Tumblr is sort of obtuse when it comes to private communication, so the tendency is for everything to be publicly posted for anyone to read - that's good for you as a parent and good for him as a kid so he doesn't feel pressured by crazy strangers.
posted by Mizu at 10:55 PM on August 21, 2010 isn't awful...there are some sketchier subreddits though.
posted by kylej at 11:03 PM on August 21, 2010

Not much of a community, but he'd probably enjoy reading IO9, and The AV Club.
posted by schmod at 11:15 PM on August 21, 2010

You might have him look at io9. It's a sci-fi/science blog with a pretty active base of regular commenters.
posted by colfax at 12:58 AM on August 22, 2010

Erm, I don't want to go into it publicly, but I would not suggest the Straight Dope forums until he's older.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:58 AM on August 22, 2010

Better that his first time on 4chan is with a parent than on his own.

Also, thanks for being an involved parent.
posted by msittig at 3:21 AM on August 22, 2010

Some of the WoW forums are better than others, but if your kid has a good bullshit meter and a thick skin, they can be a good place to talk about shared interests, etc.

Also, if they want to set up their own website with forums, DKP System has cheap website hosting with forums that are WoW-oriented.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 4:35 AM on August 22, 2010

Seconding tumblr.

When I was a teenager, which was millennia ago in internet years, there were quite a few websites geared for teens. I remember hanging out a lot at, which started as a site for girls who were into programming and web design, but as the internet became less of a niche experience it widened into just being a hub for girls in general.

Obviously your 12 year old is a dude - maybe there's something like this out there for him?

I also remember spending a lot of time in the fandom part of the internet as a young teen. A lot of the sites I frequented were geared towards adults, and a lot of the participants were way older than I was. But nothing terribly inappropriate went on. Certainly nothing I wasn't already aware of in my everyday life. I definitely recommend tvtropes - don't know much about how "young person appropriate" it is, but I learn something new about media every time I surf around over there. If I'd had that at 12 I'd probably be much smarter now.
posted by Sara C. at 6:14 AM on August 22, 2010

Er, yeah. 4chan is a creeping horror. Ground zero for sexism, racism, bizarre porn, gore, etc., etc., etc. Some of the boards are more tame, but it's pretty hard to avoid the maelstrom of suck that is /b/.

As for better destinations, I'd suggest the forums at Govteen. My parents tried to steer me that way when I was your son's age; at the time I was more involved in other sites and didn't use it much, but in retrospect it was a great choice. They've got dozens of active subforums on a variety of topics -- computers, movies, creative writing, sports. The forum software supports networking tools like Diaries (private group blogs), Groups (a la Facebook), and moderated chat. They've also got one well-moderated section ("P101") devoted to sex/health topics and another ("Help and Advice") that deals with difficult teen issues like dating, depression, drug use, and homosexuality in a safe and supportive way.

I think it's the kind of place where you could let him roam relatively freely and connect to lots of people his age (and even get some pretty trustworthy advice w.r.t. the birds and the bees) without having to worry about illicit or dangerous content.

On a more practical note, he might also enjoy Sparknotes. Primarily designed as a comprehensive guide to classic books and broad academic topics (think Cliff's Notes, but 110% better), it also offers scads of interactive features aimed at students. Discussion forums, student life blogs, funny quizzes, surprisingly good test prep for SAT/ACT/etc., even a Driver's Ed guide. They even have a section ("No Fear") that "translates" difficult public-domain texts like Shakespeare, Beowulf, and the Canterbury Tales into contemporary English. It's an excellent free resource for the middle/high school/college set.
posted by Rhaomi at 6:27 AM on August 22, 2010

My 15-yo son has played around at Casual Collective for a couple of years now, which hosts a select number of flash games (the best known is probably Desktop Tower Defense) and has an active social networking element to it. It seems like a relatively healthy social gaming environment for teens (he has a couple other teen friends there as well) that is not specifically "teen oriented".

He's also played on Habbo Hotel for eons--that's a specifically teen-oriented game/social networking platform.
posted by drlith at 7:53 AM on August 22, 2010

I haven't been on in a very long time, but I used to love it. Seems to be mostly girls, though.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 11:08 AM on August 22, 2010

There are lots of technical forums, but you can see that a huge number of people hang out in the Social forums.
posted by CathyG at 11:31 AM on August 22, 2010

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