Build a Web Site that Listens to Their Feelings, and Teenagers Will Come
KidsPeace Corporation, a nonprofit organization that operates programs to assist children in crisis, designed an interactive Web site, www.TeenCentral.net, to help youth who are experiencing or at risk of developing emotional problems.
This grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to the KidsPeace provided partial support for the expansion, promotion, and evaluation of www.TeenCentral.net.
During the grant period:
- Use of www.TeenCentral.net grew significantly.
- More than 200,000 adolescents registered as site users. That number grew to more than 350,000 by May 2002.
- The number of health topics explored on the site increased from 15 to 28. (For the list of all 28, see Appendix 2.)
- As of May 2002 the site was receiving a reported 400 to 500 submissions a day but could process only 100 a day.
- Articles mentioning the site appeared in a number of newspapers and magazines, including Business Week, USA Today, The Washington Post, The New York Times, YM, Seventeen and Scholastic Choices.
- A "rudimentary" data analysis capability allowed KidsPeace to track where visitors went on the site, making it possible to identify subjects and issues of most concern to adolescents.
RWJF supported this project through a grant of $250,000.
In 1995 KidsPeace Corporation, a nonprofit organization that operates programs to assist children in crisis, conducted a national survey that found children often keep their fears and negative feelings bottled up inside, causing such physical and mental health problems as drug and alcohol abuse, violent behavior, depression and suicide.
In 1998 KidsPeace launced an interactive Web site to help youth who are experiencing or at risk of developing emotional problems.
It provides a forum for adolescents to discuss their feelings and problems, find resources and information, and consult with professionals about their concerns. All personal stories submitted by site users are screened for appropriateness by KidsPeace staff before being placed on the Web; staff also responded with practical advice on dealing with problems.
The RWJF grant helped support the site's development, including:
- Creating additional content focusing mainly on health-related topics.
- Publicizing the site through media outreach by the KidsPeace communications department.
- Building a research unit to analyze users' log-on data in order to evaluate the site and young people's needs.
In addition to RWJF, six other foundations also supported the site's development. (See Appendix 1 for a list of other funders.)
The following were among the results reported to RWJF by KidsPeace:
- Use of www.TeenCentral.net grew significantly. The number of "page views" increased from 600,000700,000 per month before the grant to 1.52 million a month at its conclusion. (A page view occurs when a Web page is accessed; one visit to a multi-page site like TeenCentral.net may entail numerous page views.) During the grant period, more than 200,000 adolescents registered as site users and the number of registrants continued to grow to more than 350,000 by May 2002. Registration, which allows access to the site's interactive features, entails providing a password and such personal but nonidentifying information as gender, birthday, zip code and school grade. Registrants do not give their names and posted stories do not include the author's e-mail address.
- The number of health topics explored on the site increased from 15 to 28, most of them focused on health issues, ranging from explanations of relatively minor concerns (acne and warts, for example) to discussions of such subjects as obesity, asthma, fitness, pregnancy, rape and suicide. (For the list of all 28, see Appendix 2.) KidsPeace also developed text for approximately 20 more topics that were not placed on the site. The project director said additional funding was needed to add graphics and translate the material into Web documents.
- Increase in the site's use overtaxed the staff's ability to screen and respond promptly to submitted material, requiring a limitation on the number of personal stories placed on the Web. As of May 2002 the site was receiving a reported 400 to 500 submissions a day but could process only 100 a day. Teams of trained KidsPeace employees (120 to 150 total) working on their own time at home processed the submissions.
- Articles mentioning the site appeared in a number of newspapers and magazines, including Business Week, USA Today, The Washington Post, The New York Times, YM, Seventeen and Scholastic Choices. Additionally, the project director was interviewed by several national radio outlets, and the site received mention in a book on dealing with death by former CNN correspondent Jill Brooke (Don't Let Death Ruin Your Life: A Practical Guide to Reclaiming Happiness After the Death of a Loved One).
- The project director made presentations on the TeenCentral.net site at conferences in Canada, Israel and England, and consulted with organizations on the possibility of replicating the site in Canada and Israel.
- A data analysis capability described by the project director as "rudimentary" allowed KidsPeace to track where visitors went on the site, making it possible to identify subjects and issues of most concern to adolescents. However, full use of the log-on data for evaluation and research remained dependent on additional funding.
AFTER THE GRANT
KidsPeace continued to seek ongoing support for the site from corporations, foundations, government and individuals. With other funding, the grantee was exploring the possibility of undertaking an in-depth study of data provided by users in Flint, Mich.
GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION
Internet-Based Intervention and Prevention Services Addressing Health-Related Problems Among Youth
KidsPeace Corporation (Orefield, PA)
Dates: April 2000 to March 2001
James H. Feldman
Other Foundations Supporting the TeenCentral.net Web Site
- Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, $200,000
- Max Goldenberg Foundation, $40,000
- Bowman C. Lingle Foundation, $30,000
- MCJ Foundation, $25,000
- Annie E. Casey Foundation, $25,000
- Sarah deCoizart Charitable Trust, $5,000
28 Topics Discussed on the TeenCentral.net Web Site
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
(Current as of date of this report; as provided by grantee organization; not verified by RWJF; items not available from RWJF.)
World Wide Web Sites
www.TeenCentral.net is an interactive site that posts personal stories submitted by at-risk adolescents and provides information, guidance and referrals. Orefield, Pa.: KidsPeace Corporation.
Report prepared by: Rebecca M . Loew
Reviewed by: Michael H. Brown
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: Joan Hollendonner