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The age issue...

HuwHuw
edited April 2011 in The forum
So, the age limit I've set has gone down like a lead baloon among those most vocal in the news comments. I'm not totally against opening it up to over 13s but it would open a whole can or worms if I did so. So I'd like to have a discussion here where we can discuss the pros and cons.

So, I'll go first...

Against: One definite thing we need to guard against is inappropriate use of the forum and the member-to-member conversation feature, and the potential to use it for grooming. LEGO is after all a child's toy and a forum such as this might reasonably be expected to have a high number of under age participants (if we let them join) and therefore may attract the wrong sort of person. I'd be mortified if something I was responsible was used for that purpose. I suspect the chances of this are pretty close to negligible in reality, but nevertheless, there is a chance. Whether it's fair and reasonable to let that small chance influence the policy, I'd appreciate your views.

Against: Playing devil's advocate: do we adults really want teenagers butting in in our conversations and potentially swamping the place? Do we care what they have to say?

For: I'm not against teenagers per se (I have two daughters of my own, now 16 and 18) and I know they can be perfectly mature and sensible (when they want to be :-) ), and a policy like EBs which doesn't ban them outright but lets those that act maturely participate might be a model to adopt here. Let them join, if they 'appear to be adult' then they can stay, but if not, their account is disabled.

LMKWYT...
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Comments

  • I'm not going to lie. I'm 14. I think the matter of whether you should be allowed here should be a matter of both age and maturity. 13+ sounds like a good restriction for a forum, it's a widely used age for many restrictions and seems to be at the point where you find many immature people. (Not saying that 4chan doesn't exist, but I mean in general).
  • I'm not going to lie. I'm 14. I think the matter of whether you should be allowed here should be a matter of both age and maturity. 13+ sounds like a good restriction for a forum, it's a widely used age for many restrictions and seems to be at the point where you find many immature people. (Not saying that 4chan doesn't exist, but I mean in general).
    But mature is as mature does, and you've done neither your case nor the case of other under 16's any good by lying about your age to gain access to the forums and then blatantly throwing it in people's faces here. Well done for undermining those of us who support a lower age limit.....

  • edited April 2011
    Here is my list of pros and cons. With each con, I provide my disposition and/or suggesting for resolution:

    Pros:
    - no division and, perhaps as importantly, no feeling of division in the Brickset community

    - favorable position of giving each user "the benefit of the doubt", and letting the merit of their own actions dictate the terms of their involvement

    Cons:
    - increased risk of polluting the forum, which was an overriding goal to be without. I mention increased risk because a) there is no guarantee that the forum won't be polluted with the current 16+ designation and b) it is not definitive that lowering the age limit will actually pollute things.

    - alienating adults who, for whatever reason, prefer an area free of minors. Personally I'm ok with this risk because I think AFOLs, of all people, should be able to exist harmoniously with minors

    - creating an opportunity for exploitation of minors which Huw already mentioned. Perhaps the risk of this can be lessened by disabling private messages of the accounts of minors (is it possible?)

    - increased need for moderation, both from the sheer increase in the population, but also because history has shown that minors, as a whole, do need more moderation. I'm willing to put in the effort if others are.
  • Personally, I support raising it higher into the 20s. Most 16-19 year olds aren't much more mature than your average 15 year old, at least in my experience. In fact, if you take into consideration the community itself, you'll probably find 30 year olds with maturity levels equivalent to half their age. Obviously you can't weed out immature man-children and the like merely by age but the fewer here the better.
  • As an adult with no kids, I can only speak with how I relate to them in other areas (I am also not a teacher or coach). I prefer a chance to interact with other adults and be able to relate to them as adults. The preasures of time is what I see the most different, from adult to children (under 18 for me).
    Adults have their nomal life to deal with, and regardless of what you do to make a living it does take away from your passions (i.e. LEGO).
    Children do not pay bills and earn a living, so they are free to spend all their time or as much time as they want at their passion. By allowing them to freely populate this forum, it will become filled rather quickly and become difficult to navigate (for those of us who don't live on the web).
    And for the a basis of arguement I use StarWarsCollectors post... no value to the discussion, just a comment.
    I advocate raising the age to 18
  • Well, my personal take is that I have been looking for a place where AFOLs can talk freely with other AFOLs. I was very excited to see that this could be that place. By allowing for a younger audience to participate then it will become another free-for-all forum, rather than an AFOL (stressing the A for Adult) forum. So I would like to see it remain as is or even go to age 18.
  • 17+, sure, but 18+? Nah. Wait 8 months and I'll be ok with it.
  • I'm definitely for the 16+ restriction.

    Pro-
    Not every 15 year old is immature and their opinions do matter.

    Cons-
    For every mature 15 year old that reads but never posts (or posts only when necessary), there seems to be a gaggle of immature 15 year olds (or younger) that post but never read. If you catch my drift.

    I also appreciate what Huw said about safety issues.

    I also appreciate that more moderation, as Rocao said, would require more work of those who run the forum.

    Keep the 16+ restriction.
  • As an AFOL I like the idea of having a place that I can discuss and interact with other AFOL's. This doesn't mean that people who are younger than 18 can't be a part of a functioning community, but I agree with you Huw, if someones behavior isn't that of an adult mentality then they get canned. I sure don't want to have to wade through a bunch of "junk" to get to the post that I feel apply to me as an adult but I don't want to simply dismiss everyone that might be a bit younger JUST because of their age.

  • Personally, I'd seek some advice from an expert to understand what risk Huw and the admins are accepting if they allow minors to participate here. The one thing that sticks out for me is the availability of private messaging (i.e to a specific individual). That allows Mr Creepy Molestopants and his friends to groom minors without the knowledge of the majority - and then you're in trouble.
  • The one thing that sticks out for me is the availability of private messaging (i.e to a specific individual). That allows Mr Creepy Molestopants and his friends to groom minors without the knowledge of the majority - and then you're in trouble.
    That's a very big problem, if it happens, so even if it pains other people to not allow younger fans to join in the forum the restrictions would actually be for their own benefit.

    Love hurts sometimes...

  • Whether it be 13 or 16, there's really no way to make everyone happy. Based on all the concerns noted above, I guess I'm leaning towards keeping the age limit where it is.
  • I can't remember the address right now, but I seem to remember a news article about a Lego question & answer site. I was excited about a new resource for Lego information - and terribly disappointed about the quality of the information.
    Drawing an arbitrary line at an age stinks - but if it ensures the quality of posts on the forum, and the safety of those who aren't allowed to post it's the right thing to do.
  • I think there are enough lego forums out there for the kids. Like the official lego forum. Look at it. And than decide if you want to have a forum like that.
  • Mountain bike forums have the same issues and none have any age restriction. And they are much the better for it - teenagers can be stupid, but so can adults. Especially with Lego; some of us need to be reminded how to _play_!

    Remove the direct message feature, implement a transparent process for removing people, make sure everyone knows about it and enforces it, and lower the age to 13. Or 10. Lego is for kids primarily and we shouldnt forget that.

    We should stop being afraid of kids or our society is doomed.
  • Stick to your guns, Huw. There are plenty of places on the Internet for KFOLs and younger TFOLs to hang out and discuss Lego. I'm a member of some, but part of the reason I decided to give these new Brickset forums a try was because it is the only place with a high age restriction. After hanging out at last summer's Brickworld with fellow AFOLs who were, on average, almost 10 years older than me with collections 100 times larger than my own (which is by no means small itself), I found for the first time I can have tons of meaningful conversations about the more "adult" attitudes towards collecting Lego with fellow adults. When I want to be flippant and see what the kids have to say, I can always visit the other Lego fan forums I subscribe to, but in the meantime, PLEASE keep the age restriction where it is. Like some have said, you won't ever be able to please everybody whether you increase or lower the limit, so just stick to your first decision.
  • edited April 2011
    After hanging out at last summer's Brickworld with fellow AFOLs who were, on average, almost 10 years older than me with collections 100 times larger than my own (which is by no means small itself), I found for the first time I can have tons of meaningful conversations about the more "adult" attitudes towards collecting Lego with fellow adults.
    I'm just playing Devil's advocate here, but if you consider yourself the junior member of that group (both in age and in collections) and it was a great eye-opening experience for you, why would you want to deny young brickset users a similar interaction with more senior members?
  • edited April 2011
    As a parent, a teacher, and a coach, I vouch that this remains forum remains at the age of 16. If it was not just for those of us AFOLs, but for the protection of the young ones. I trust that these forums and threads will remain PG, but the youngsters should not be able to post as that will only complicate matters and possibly muddle the forum.

    Besides, the last thing that I want to see is this forum being populated by users asking:
    "I have $100, what set should I buy?"

    Thanks Huw, yellowcastle, bluemoose, roaco and others for all that you have done to make this forum a reality.
  • I think it should be kept at 16. The two advantages of reducing risk to minors and a more adult conversation are important. I have seen some open discussion groups that are very anoying, like that other lego discussion group BrickQ.com. That was just hopeless to have any meanful discussion. If anyone has any doubts, just go and browse that site.
  • ^ Yes, the BrickQ problem is definitely one we need to avoid here. The site has potential, but being overrun by minors makes it next to useless.
  • At least out of the gate, this is by far the best forum I've ever been to for LEGO. Whatever it takes to keep the forum relevant to fun for AFOL's. I think thats the bottom line. Maybe make a section just for minors to post in or something??
  • I wonder how many minors actually read brickset, fbtb, etc. instead of reading the Lego Club Magazine or the Catalogue for product news.

    The Lego forum is a lot more appealing to kids than a stripped down, simple (and beautiful) one like this.
  • At least out of the gate, this is by far the best forum I've ever been to for LEGO. Whatever it takes to keep the forum relevant to fun for AFOL's. I think thats the bottom line. Maybe make a section just for minors to post in or something??
    I like this idea. I will not visit the forum if it is full of "how do I make mommy buy me this set" and such. My two favorite forums (something awful and frontrow crew) both have barriers in place to stop non-useful discussion regardless of age.
  • Why don't you make a seperate forum for teenagers under 16 then? Just an idea of mine!
  • I am all for a 16+ age restriction. But I dont think you have to be age nazis or something. I think the true age restriction should be defined as the ability to have a mature conversation.
  • You know, even with an age restriction, what is really stopping the mature under-16 to get on the forum? I think the real issue for those currently excluded from the forum is the feeling of rejection. The under-16s can quickly figure out that they can participate by being dishonest about their age. And the mature under-16s can continue participating in the forum is they are very discrete.
  • As a 17-year old (I'll be turning 18 on June 30), I am all for this forum's age restriction. I like the professionalism of this forum: no rambling threads, no trolls, no flame-ups, and nothing but plenty of helpful, LEGO-loving people. That is where my fear of a free-range forum takes over in my mind: once we (and by "we" I don't mean me: I really mean the indomitable Huw and his dedicated team!) open it up, everything is going to get bogged down. Huw also pointed out the fact that the age restriction is a law designed to protect minors; as a person who is pursuing a career as a police officer, I find that an excellent and noble cause. Trying to make an open forum, even one based off of something as harmless as LEGOs, I'm sure is very legally messy. I would hate to burden Huw with any more responsibility; he and the rest of the moderators have done a fabulous job on these forums as it is. I hate leaving the younger crowd out; I think I speak for everyone when I say that no one here wants to hurt the younger crowd's feelings. However, by accomadating everyone, we would just be making the experience miserable for everyone: the younger crowd would just take it for granted they could post whatever they want, and the older people would resent all the useless topics clogging up the forum. I know this is a hard choice, but I feel it is the only one.
  • I think that's pretty well said @PaulTR (for a 17 year old ;o)
  • Based on PaulTR's comments above, I think we should raise the age limit to 18.

    J/K - Very nice post.
  • Like Paul, I´m turning 18 in November, I know how younger teenagers can spoil such a good forum like this one. Being mature or not, depends on each person, there are many 13 years old children who seem as mature as me and also many who would just post comments like the ones in BrickQ.com.
    I would keep the age limit in 16, what makes a difference in 12 or 14 months? I mean, I know I wasn´t as mature as I am today one year ago, and every year I´ll be more and more mature, but 1 year ago I was able to post a comment giving the same maturity as today.
    If you are looking for maturity, judge every post. Don´t you know many people who are 20 and still thinking the same things as a 13 year old boy?
  • edited April 2011
    ^ Well I'm over 30 and I still think like a 13 year old sometimes, but I don't act like one (well, maybe on a few occasions, you'd have to ask the wife!). I think the point about some under 16's being more mature than some 20+ year olds is a valid one and well understood, but it's a much more difficult line to draw than an age limit.

    Let's just say, statistically, a person is more likely to be more mature when they are 16+, and that's why age limits apply to many aspects of modern society, they are often seen as unfair barriers by youngsters, but barriers are there for everyone's safety.
  • I hope I'm wrong but the quality of some of the threads appearing here already suggest there are quite a few under-16s. What's your favourite shop/set/minifig/colour/blah don't sound much like Adult Fans to me...
  • @Martin: discussions exactly of that nature were something we specifically wanted to avoid and disliked about other existing forums. While the topic alone doesn't specifically indicate age, I think it's fair speculation -- adults tend to be able to narrow the focus of inquiries better. As moderators, we are discussing what we can do to limit those types of threads.
  • ^ Sink and/or close? I think sinking is an excellent feature in the Vanilla Forums interface, providing a non-confrontational way of limiting the influence of unwanted posts.
  • ^Good point, I hadn't thought of sink in that way before.
  • edited April 2011
    I am against raising the age limit purely on the technical point of: I can attend an AFOL convention as I am 16 but, if the limit was 18+, I would not be able to post on an AFOL forum. It seems a bit like double standards if the limit is higher than 16.

    I feel that 16+ is a good limit because it is the age required to attend most AFOL events, it means there are less poor quality threads and it is nice to have more mature discussions with other AFOL's than with the younger teens, who I seem to encounter a lot on other forums that I am active on.

    A sinking/liking system for threads and posts would be a good idea as well. That way good discussions would be prevalent while less desirable ones would end up deleted.
  • The forum does has a sink feature so myself and the mods will use it when appropriate.
  • Don't worry, there's no talk of raising the floor higher than 16. There was an initial push to set a ceiling, however, but we couldn't risk losing @drdavewatford. Ha. J/K :o)
  • I'm one of the ADMIN for theCABG.net and we do basically the same that EB does. Our service providers says +13years. So if you're able to act that age you stay. If you can't... BOOM! Gone. Same should work with +16 here. There are lot of TFoLs (13-15yrs) that know how to "behave". Those that don't. Gone. ;)
  • ^ I'm with you. Let 'em in, if they swamp the place, cut them off. Do we have any idea of the current age demographic of the forum? How do we even know that lowering the age limit will open the floodgate? Maybe you could open up a new forum for under 16's?
  • I agree with the mental age limit... In fact, I think it should be changed to 13 and over (for legal reasons, of course) and a mental age limit of 18.
  • The fact is all they have to do is lie about their birthday when they register. Let whoever wants to join join just police the hell out of the forums and dont be afraid of the ban button.
  • I believe the consensus has bee in support of 16+ and the dynamic has been very nice in here so far. I thus imagine the current age limit will likely go unchanged.
  • @pantenkind: agreed. Whether someone is under or OVER *any* posted age limit or not, posts can be mature or immature, it all comes down to the individual. People will lie regardless of what the limit is, so the only option is human monitored discretion/judgement.

    If "immature" or "inappropriate" posts from certain users are spotted, and the users weeded out, then less potential for bad or inappropriate activity will exist across the board.
  • I'm all for using some common sense with seeing how people near the age limit act if given a chance to join - I don't think the quality of this site will degrade at all, but I can appreciate wanting to be careful too. Whatever you decide I'm behind - it's been a very pleasant experience here thus far and I'm not worried about that changing :)
  • edited April 2011
    REMEMBER BRICKQ.COM!
    I just recently came across that site and thought (yahoo answers for legos!) sounds cool, but within 2 minutes on the site I realized why there was an age limit on this forum. It's horrible, 90% of the questions are "Should I get Set A or Set B?"

    Additionally, I noticed I traffic the main brickset site much less now that the forums out, I think if you open the forum to all (or more) it will take away from the main site.

    I think the age limit should have been 18, 16 is already a compromise. I agree with everyone else as well, there's plenty of other forums they can go to.

    EDIT: Forgot to mention the nightmare of trying to tell a user he's not "mature" enough to use the forum. That's going to cause a lot of animosity and spark a lot of "justifications" for their posts trying to dispute the decision. It's going to make everything way to complicated.
  • Well stupid comments seem to be where there are teens. No offence but BrickQ speaks for itself. Truely spamtastic screenshots!
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/62302673@N05/5670711173/in/photostream/
  • I support keeping the age limit where it is at 16. Yes, there are mature people under the age of 16 and immature people who are 16+, but I think there is no demographic more annoying on a forum as the 13-15 year old crowd and they have plenty of forums just for them. I like the forum the way it is right now, with a lot of interesting topics and mature posts, no flaming, and no trolls. I think if it was opened up to a younger age group it would deteriorate and lose its appeal to AFOLs.
  • It will remain at 16. There is a good, mature, vibe in here and I want that to remain.

    Now I'm back from my short vacation, and we've been in beta for a month or so, I'll be discussing moving the forum to 'live' with the rest of the forum staff soon.

    There aren't a lot of posts from juveniles, but those that are made are removed pretty quickly. There are one or two individuals that we have had to ban, and who then rejoin with another, similar, user name (sure sign of a juvenile) but on the whole it seems as if we are successfully moderating the forums. Let us know if you think otherwise.

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