I’d come across the social platform GoBubble before, having seen it promoted through the eCadets’ online safety programme. Created by ex-police sergeant Henry Platten, web-based GoBubble promotes itself as a “safer, healthier, and kinder digital community for teachers, kids, and parents to connect and communicate with colleagues, friends, and classmates”. Currently, children under the age of 13 are welcome to join, but there are plans later in the year for students in Years 7–12 (ages 11–18) to be allowed access to the platform. A mobile app is in development too. GoBubble is free for schools, but there are also paid upgrade options available.
Students sign up with a unique school code after a school account is made, meaning they can see and contribute to school groups and chat directly with each other. Within the groups, they can make bubbles (posts) to share their thoughts, ideas, and opinions, and they can reply to and like others’ bubbles. Parents — who are required to verify their children — are able to see their children’s interactions, as are school staff, who are also able to moderate comments. There are various other positive bubbles for students to view, including jokes and messages of hope that are posted by GoBubble users and staff. The positive nature of the community for students is uplifting; there’s a real focus on mental health and positive online experiences.
How did GoBubble support our transition?
We wanted a way for our students to connect with each other safely before they started school — we found that GoBubble was ideal for this. After signing up, we notified all parents of the site and gave them our unique code. I was stunned by how many students signed up within hours; we now have the majority of our new cohort using the platform. I posted some bubbles asking them questions about what they were looking forward to about starting secondary school, and the interactions began. I then noticed that they were messaging each other about their hobbies, which school house they were in, and what they were looking forward to or worried about. It was great to see the interaction, and some of them have made friends with each other before starting school. Over the summer, I’m planning to check in regularly to answer any questions — I expect there’ll be an influx a few days before term starts!
For our students, GoBubble has proven to be invaluable — it has already supported the wider work we have done regarding transition and has helped students feel part of the community before they’ve even started.
Continuing to use GoBubble
It is highly likely that we will continue to use this platform into the next academic year. GoBubble is such a well-moderated and positive place for students to be that I’d rather see them continue to use this than explore other social networks, which may not be as well moderated. In terms of wider reach, it’s possible for students to connect with other students via the app, making GoBubble an ideal platform for cross-school sharing and project collaboration. When they do start to sign up to other sites, the skills they’ve learnt through using GoBubble should benefit them and help keep them safe.
What makes GoBubble safe?
GoBubble has in-built technology that checks content before it goes live. A team of moderators are also on hand to ensure that content posted on the platform is appropriate. Children are only allowed to chat with other children, their parents, or their teacher, thereby reducing the risk of them being approached by an unknown adult. If a safeguarding concern is identified, the team makes contact with parents and schools to resolve the issue.