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How online communities can help children: from friendships to confidence building

Children’s educator, coach, and psychologist Danielle Baron shares the benefits of allowing children to access online communities

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Katie Daly
Lifestyle Writer
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Access to the internet is a concern for many parents who try to strike the balance between allowing their children to be up-to-date with platforms they may use at school, or platforms that allow them to sustain friendships, and keeping their children safe. 

Though it is important that children are monitored when using the internet or social media platforms to keep them safe, parents should acknowledge that when accessing safe, child-appropriate sites, the internet can offer a multitude of benefits that can enrich the life of a child. 

Danielle Baron is a children’s educator, coach, and psychologist who explains to HELLO! the many benefits of allowing your children access to online communities.

Fostering Friendships and Social Skills

With children increasingly being allowed access to child-appropriate social media platforms (be aware that platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook rightfully have an age restriction of 13+), Danielle explains why some screen time can help children sustain friendships. "The internet breaks down geographical barriers, enabling children to connect with peers who share similar interests," she says.

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Online communities can benefit children

"This aspect is particularly beneficial for children who feel isolated in their immediate environment. Through online communities, gaming platforms, and social media, children have the opportunity to develop friendships and social skills. For those with autism or social anxieties, these platforms can offer a comfortable setting to interact, helping them to rehearse social situations and prepare for real-life interactions in a controlled and safe environment."

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Online communities can have educational benefit

Building Confidence and Overcoming Social Anxiety

Many children struggle to sustain friendships or find friends in the first place, due to a lack of confidence – something Danielle says online communities can help remedy. "Online interactions can play a crucial role in helping children build confidence, especially in social settings," the expert tells us. 

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Online communities can help children develop friendships

"The internet's relative anonymity and the control it offers over social interactions can make it easier for children, particularly those who are shy or have difficulties in face-to-face interactions, to express themselves. They can rehearse and navigate social scenarios without the immediate pressure of judgment or the physical presence of others, which can be a significant step in overcoming social anxiety and building self-esteem."

Enhancing Educational Opportunities

Many children will access the internet for the first time at school, or at the very least, will be promoted by their teachers to access the internet for homework assignments. Danielle speaks about the wealth of free information that can be accessed online as an educational resource for children. She tells us: "The internet is a treasure trove of educational material, offering interactive learning tools, educational games, and online courses. These resources cater to various learning styles and difficulties, making learning more accessible and engaging for all children, including those with learning difficulties."

Young girl using laptop in bedroom © Getty
Many children are encouraged by their school to use the internet for homework

She adds: "Online educational platforms allow children to learn at their own pace and in a way that suits them best, which can be empowering and help in building their confidence in academic abilities."

Therapeutic Support and Skill Development

As always, if monitored by a parent or trusted adult the online world can provide a host of resources for children with learning difficulties. Danielle tells us that "online platforms provide essential therapeutic resources for children with autism and other developmental challenges. Specialised apps and programs are available to assist in areas such as speech development, behavioural therapy, and emotional recognition."

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Allow your children to access age-appropriate sites

She continues: "The online environment can help children develop vital life skills like digital literacy, problem-solving, and critical thinking. Participating in online projects or coding games can enhance their technical and creative abilities, providing them with tools that are essential in today’s digital world."

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Children can access useful resources online

Danielle says when "it comes to social apps designed for kids, it's hard to guarantee 100% safety as there's always the potential for misuse. However, the most effective approach to safeguarding children is for parents to familiarise themselves with these apps and ensure that privacy settings are configured to restrict access to only those known to their child."

Online safety resources for children and parents

  • NSPCC's Net Aware: Net Aware is a website created by the NSPCC that provides guidance on various online platforms and their safety for children. It's a valuable resource for parents and caregivers.
  • Childnet International: Childnet International offers a variety of resources, including videos and guides, to help children and parents navigate the online world safely.
  • Thinkuknow: Thinkuknow is an educational initiative by the National Crime Agency's CEOP Command. It provides age-appropriate online safety resources for children and young people.

Social apps that are popular with children

  • KIDOZ Messenger: KIDOZ Messenger is designed for kids and offers a secure chat platform. Parents can control and monitor their child's contacts and messages.
  • Messenger Kids by Facebook: Messenger Kids is a kid-friendly version of Facebook's Messenger app. Parents can set up and control their child's account, including approving contacts.
  • Kidzworld: Kidzworld is a safe online community for kids and teens. It provides forums, chat rooms, and articles on various topics while implementing safety measures.
  • ToonTown Rewritten: ToonTown Rewritten is an online multiplayer game where kids can team up with others to complete tasks and missions. It has strict chat filters and safety features.
  • Club Penguin Rewritten: Club Penguin Rewritten is another virtual world game where kids can explore, play games, and chat with friends. It has safety measures in place and is appropriate for a younger audience.
  • Roblox: Roblox is a popular platform for creating and playing games. While it's not specifically a friendship platform, kids can connect with friends and join games together. Parental controls and privacy settings should be configured.
  • Minecraft: Minecraft allows multiplayer gameplay, where kids can collaborate and build together in a virtual world. Parents can enable safety features and restrict access to only approved players.
  • Webkinz: Webkinz is a virtual pet world where kids can adopt and take care of virtual pets. They can also interact with other players and play games together.
  • Animal Jam: Animal Jam is an online playground for kids who love animals. It has chat and social features while enforcing strict safety rules and chat filters.

Online educational resources for kids


  • CBeebies: CBeebies is a BBC website and television channel specifically designed for children aged 7 and under. It offers a wide range of educational games, videos, and activities, promoting early learning and creativity.
  • Club Penguin Island: Club Penguin Island is a virtual world for kids that encourages social interaction, creativity, and problem-solving.

KEY STAGE 2 AGE 7-11 and older

  • BBC Bitesize: BBC Bitesize is an educational platform that provides free resources, interactive lessons, and quizzes covering various subjects and age groups.
  • Tinkercad: Tinkercad is a free online platform that allows kids to create 3D designs and learn about 3D printing and CAD (computer-aided design) in a user-friendly environment.

KEY STAGE 1 age 4-7  AND 2 age 7-11 and older

  • Mathletics: Mathletics is an online learning platform focused on mathematics. It offers engaging math exercises, games, and challenges to help children improve their math skills.
  • Khan Academy Kids: Khan Academy Kids is a free educational app that offers interactive lessons, games, and activities for children aged 2 to 8.
  • Duolingo: Duolingo is a language learning app that can be a fun way for children to learn new languages while building their confidence in communication.
  • The Literacy Shed: The Literacy Shed provides a collection of high-quality, literacy-focused resources, including videos, writing prompts, and lesson plans.
  • Maths Zone: Maths Zone offers a variety of interactive math games and activities that can help students develop their mathematical skills.
  • Mystery Science: Mystery Science provides engaging science lessons and experiments suitable for primary school children. It encourages hands-on learning and critical thinking.
  • Crickweb: Crickweb offers free online educational games and interactive resources covering multiple subjects, including literacy, numeracy, and science.
  • Science Kids: Science Kids provides science experiments, facts, games, and quizzes that can spark curiosity and enthusiasm for science.
  • provides free coding lessons and activities suitable for children of all ages. It's a fantastic resource for introducing kids to programming and computer science concepts.
  • Minecraft Education Edition: Minecraft Education Edition offers an educational version of the popular game, with a focus on creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving.
  • National Geographic Kids: National Geographic Kids provides educational articles, games, videos, and quizzes on topics related to science, geography, history, and the natural world, making learning fun and engaging. 
  • IXL: IXL is an online platform that offers interactive exercises and practice questions in various subjects, including mathematics and English. It provides personalized learning experiences based on a child's grade level.
  • Purple Mash: Purple Mash offers a wide range of creative tools and educational games for primary school children. It covers subjects such as math, English, science, and computing.
  • Topmarks: Topmarks is a collection of free educational games and activities. It covers various subjects and is particularly known for its math resources.
  • Oxford Owl: Oxford Owl offers free e-books, educational games, and activities for primary school children, with a focus on literacy and numeracy.
  • BBC Teach: BBC Teach provides a wealth of educational videos, lessons, and resources for teachers and students.

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