PLEASE READ THE ENTIRETY OF THIS POST BEFORE REPLYING OR LIKING.
For those who don’t know me, I have been a follower of the HealthUnlocked Couch to 5k forum for eight and a half years and I have been on the forum admin team, initially as a mentor and then as an administrator, for approximately half that time.
Many do not fully understand the structures of these forums, but the C25k, Bridge to 10k, Marathon and Race support forums along with Strength and Flex and Active 10 forums are run by a volunteer admin team with some crossover between forums, providing familiar names and faces for those moving between them. The wonderful current team is ably led by roseabi, again, as a volunteer, despite the amount of time and organisation that it requires to run it all smoothly. All these forums, along with a huge range of other community forums based on specific issues, covering mental and physical health, are hosted and supported by the HealthUnlocked (HU) platform, who somehow manage to keep our pages free of advertising.
Just think, where else do you go on the internet that is ad free?
HealthUnlocked do a wonderful job enabling communities to set up their own forums and I have no beef with them as an organisation, but as community admins we have to enforce their terms, conditions and guidelines. These have recently changed, which leaves me with no option, in my mind, but to hand back my admin badge as I cannot, in all conscience, continue to carry out all the duties expected of me.
On September 2nd 2021 HU raised the lower age limit for membership of all its forums from sixteen to eighteen. We were informed of this by roseabi, on our admin forum. Having duly read the communication, I forgot all about it until I saw a post on the C25k forum from an admirable young man who had completed the programme, persuaded his father to start C25k, encouraged others to stick with it and then entered a race raising funds for a cancer charity. Thanks to the new biog box under each post, I could see that he was sixteen.
The C25k forum was an eye opener to me when I joined it, in being such an all inclusive, welcoming, supportive island of positivity for new runners, amongst the sea of venal and divisive social media on the internet and I have taken great joy in upholding this ethos over the years. While I reluctantly accepted the previous sixteen year old minimum age range, simply because it was in force when I joined, as a matter of principle I cannot enforce the new minimum age of eighteen…………….I cannot tell a young man who is doing his best for himself, his family and his community that he is not welcome on our forum and so reluctantly I have asked for my admin badge to be removed and am writing this post in an effort to apply some pressure to HU to reconsider their action and I need your help.
HU have have imposed this raised minimum age because of the new “Children's code" brought in by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), which has been designed to safeguard children against certain dangers posed by online services. They define children as those under the age of 18 and it seems that HU have simply decided it would be best to exclude the 16s to 18s from the site. There is a substantial fine involved if the rules of the code are breached.
HealthUnlocked have reacted quite understandably to this piece of legislation and I appreciate that it may be difficult for them to find the resources to investigate alternatives…….they are not Facebook or Youtube. However, both those mega businesses have adjusted their procedures and protocols enabling them to maintain their previous, much lower than HU, age limits. theguardian.com/technology/...
Over the last two months both roseabi and I have communicated directly with HU to find out whether they have any intention of reversing the increased age range for the forums. We have been told that discussions are taking place, but after several emails I have concluded that there is no imminent action on this front.
While the intentions of the new Children’s code are laudable, I am sure that in these times of an obesity crisis and rising levels of mental health issues amongst children and young adults, that the ICO did not intend to remove access to support networks, from the very sector of the population it is intending to protect.
My aim is that this post, and the other identical ones that I have posted on all the other sister forums of which I am a member, will act as a show of the strength of feelings of our communities, so I would ask you to LIKE this post only if you agree with the statement below
We ask HealthUnlocked to reconsider its recent raising of the minimum age limit for all its community forums and return it to sixteen, to enable ongoing support to young people who can get married, consent to sex and medical treatment, become parents and even vote in devolved elections, in these times when these self same young people have been exposed to very great stresses.
The number of LIKES we notch up will act in the same way as the names on a petition and you can do this wholly anonymously, or you can comment below and discuss the issues and possible strategies to resolve this. Or you can voice your disagreement. If HU feel unable to put things right, then I will use the numbers generated and arguments from these posts to lobby the ICO, on behalf of HU, to consider the unintended consequences of their new code.
This post is not intended to indicate any criticism of any of my former admin colleagues, nor indeed of HU as an organisation, but purely to highlight the new minimum age and its implications for forum admins and, more importantly, young people. For me this is a matter of principle to support our young people, our nation’s future, and I have far less to lose than these young citizens have at risk.
So it is over to you to tell me, by NOT clicking LIKE, that I am a crazy old man, or that you believe, as I do, in the rights of our young people, simply by clicking the LIKE button below.
Please contact all forum members you know who you believe would agree with the above statement. You can also help the cause by highlighting this issue in other HU community forums of which you may be a member.
If any of you would like to be involved in strategies in this campaign, then please PM me.
Oh, and by the way, keep running, keep smiling.