A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
What's it about?
HELP YOUR HERO is a free website that allows seriously ill children to become superheroes in an online community comprising friends and family. Parents and legal guardians can create a Headquarters -- essentially, a group-specific sub-site -- for family and friends to share information and support for a seriously ill child age 18 or younger. Once a parent sets up an account for a kid, he or she will get to choose a superhero avatar. They'll then be able to explore the "Hero-verse," including the fictional city of Unity, while getting messages, photos, and support from family members and friends. The Headquarters can include a kid's personal story (kids and families are encouraged to create a superhero-style backstory), blog posts, and pages with original content. Parents also can let four other users edit site content and can connect with other users through the site's internal messaging system. They also can make certain sections private -- for example, restricting photo-comment access -- and kids younger than 14 can't make wall posts.
Is it any good?
Help Your Hero has a simple yet effective premise: Provide a place for a seriously ill child's family members and friends to connect, share updates, and collectively provide support. Registration takes some time, but that's due to a series of precautionary measures to ensure site users can communicate with each other in a safe environment. (Help Your Hero isn't messing around; adults have to virtually sign an extensive permission document and create a profile to register kids 13 and under separately.) Visually, the site delivers; it's comic-book colorful and designed to be a refreshing, fun place for a sick child to visit. Help Your Hero's focus on safety precautions may make registration and set-up feel a bit overwhelming at first, but, ultimately, it should help give loved ones the opportunity to provide some much-needed encouragement to safely bolster kids' spirits during a difficult time.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can discuss what a child is feeling, whether he or she is ill or is friends with someone who is ill. Does your child sometimes feel scared? Talk about healthy ways to deal with fear and stress.
Communication on the site is fairly safe, but not all sites pay as much attention to privacy concerns. Which red flags should kids look for on websites that let them instant-message or email other users?
If your child has a friend who is seriously ill, talk about ways your child can show support. Help your child make a card, letter, or other item to express how he or she feels.
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