PC Age Guideline Explanation

Heidi Adams — By on October 15, 2008 at 9:34 am

Hi, everyone—

So, it’s one of the perils of a growing, evolving organization that we have to evaluate situations when they come up, and decide on a response that best protects the integrity and purpose of our community and our organization. Such a situation recently occurred with the growing presence of younger teens between 13 and 18 years old joining My Planet; both cancer patients and children of cancer patients.

We spent a lot of time discussing this and seeking advice from every angle: psychosocial, emotional, practical and legal. We also spent a lot of time looking for alternatives and options, so that no one would be left without emotional support in these difficult circumstances.

Here are the primary concerns:

1. There is explicit content on this site, including detailed discussions of sexual issues, lifestyles and drug use, that is not appropriate for minors.

2. The purpose of the My Planet community is to provide a safe place for peer support where people with cancer in their 20s and 30s can get information, talk openly and support each other through their shared experiences. The presence of younger adolescents—particularly non-cancer patients—may cause people to alter, consciously or not, what they are willing to share, in order to “protect” the young ones. Think of it this way: you wouldn’t bring your child to an in-person support group at the hospital, both because you wouldn’t want them to hear some of the details shared, and because it would impact what people in the group would be willing to share in front of them.

3. There is a heavy burden of additional responsibility (both moral and legal) that comes with open channels of communication between minors and older members in order to protect the minor, particularly if either is vulnerable and in a state of emotional crisis, as many of our members may be.

Our primary worry about restricting use of My Planet by younger teens is that they would be left out in the cold, with no other resources or support for them. However, we have found several very good resources for both teens with cancer and teens who have parents with cancer—online gathering places that are age-appropriate and specifically created for teens so that they, too, can have open discussions with their peers about their own thoughts, fears and experiences.

For teens with cancer:
Group Loop (www.grouploop.org)
Teens Living With Cancer (www.teenslivingwithcancer.org)
Starbright World (www.starbrightworld.org)

For teens whose parents have cancer:
CancerCare (www.cancercare.org)
Kids Konnected (www.kidskonnected.org)
Cancer Really Sucks (www.cancerreallysucks.org)

At the end of the day, Planet Cancer was founded with the mission of serving young adults with cancer in their 20s and 30s. We realize that we cannot be all things to all people, so we make every effort to support and refer to other organizations that fill in the gaps and provide services that we cannot. With all that in mind, we have decided to bring our online community under the same age guidelines we have always had for our weekend retreats, and to clearly set the minimum age for participation in our online community as 18 years old.

My goal with this message is to be as transparent as possible about our thought process, so that everyone knows why we have reached this decision and why we think it is the choice that will best protect the purpose and intention of this amazing community.

Thanks for your support and understanding.

Best,
Heidi

Read more:
PC Age Guideline Explanation

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