Dear parents, coaches, club leaders, and to all others whom it may concern:
It has come several times to our attention your concerns of the content which your children may come into contact with on the website http://www.homeschooldebate.com
(or as it shall be referred to here in as HSD). Truly, it is not deniable that your concerns and questions are not unjustified in many cases on the forum. However, in light of the nature of the forum, there are certain things regarding it that it would behoove all parties to be clarified on herein. As I myself have been personally questioned by not only you, the parents and coaches, but also by some of the NCFCA's most ilustrious figures such as Mrs. Teresa Moon as well as Mrs. Malinda Tuggle, I understand many of the concerns that you have regarding the website.
One of the most prominent of these questions being: Is It Safe For My Children?
In a sense, as with most all things, the answer is both yes and no. Permit me a moment, if you will, to expound upon this response.
When I say that "Yes, it is safe", I am in many senses giving credit to the forum's prestigious moderation staff. Between all of them, they generally keep a 24-hour watch on the content which passes to-and-fro on the forum. And even when it is not possible for them to do so personally for reasons such as tournaments, conferences, and the like they will many times select temporary moderators who they deem to be presentable with sound mind and legitimate moral judgement. In addition, most of the users on the forum are of Christian background and belief, and hence in many cases, the content on the forum does not need to be moderated for reasons that have any sort of moral ramifications, but rather for the lack of content which sometimes makes its way into what are known as "threads", that is to say the specific topics which are within the separate forums. However, it is with great pleasure that I tell you that such posts are no need for concern.
So then, is there any content on the forum from which concern may arise? Unfortunately, yes there is. Going back to the question of whether or not the forum is safe for your children or students, we come to the part where we explain why it is sometimes unsafe. While the forum is mostly dedicated to discussion of NCFCA topics and events, there are a few select forums in which the NCFCA is generally not discussed. As well, most of the users are of the Christian faith and morality, it must be understand that not all users are so. In many cases, this will result in your children or students being exposed to atheist, agnostic, or other worldviews which they may not be used to or you may not wish them to be exposed to in this impressionable stage of their lives. On the other hand, while it is entirely understandable to not want your children to be exposed to said views, in a very real sense this also opens up an opportunity for said children and students to be able to share and debate their faith with people from different backgrounds, and worldviews.
So the next question becomes: Is It Worth It?
The answer is two-fold. At first glance, how productive can it be for a bunch of teenagers to get together and talk about global and domestic issues, when they don't even know what the meaning of taxes is yet? The answer is an old saying which I am certain many of us are familiar with: Two heads are better than one. Seen at first, we just look like regular teenagers. We dress in t-shirts, khakis, and Chuck Taylor tennis shoes. But should you chance to ask those who have been around for a while they they have gotten out of being a regular member on HSD, the answer may surprise you. Many of the greatest and most successful figures in the NCFCA have gotten a large portion of their stories and starts on the forum. Then we come again to acrediting the moderation and administration staff. While there may be a few cases wherein your child stumbles across content that has "slipped through the cracks", if you will, the efficiency of the staff in comparison to said content compensates for rare, yet possible, mishappenings of the child, and they do everything they can to make it a user-friendly and user-safe environment.
Finally, the question comes to: How Do I Keep From Throwing The Baby Out With The Bath Water?
The solution to keep your child safe while he or she is using the forum is a very simple one. On the forum index, you will find 26 sub-forums open for public viewing. Of these 26 sub-forums, 5 of them are non-debate-related. These 5 forums are those wherein you would be most likely to find questionable content. They are labelled thusly:
Everything Else Archives
Definitively speaking, Controversy Corner is the place wherein non-debate-related current events and theology (such as Evolution vs. Creation, Predestination vs. Free Will, gun control, etc.) are debated amongst Christians and non-Christians alike. In this forum, you are most likely to find questionable theological and moral material.
Serious dicussion, is more a place to discuss current events, life issues (such as dating, courtship, modesty, etc.) are more discussed than debated. Yet, here again, there is a possibility that your child may encounter views and opinions that he or she may not be used to.
Vanilla Paradise, or "Silly Stuff" as it is many times referred to, is very adept to its latter name. Its focus is on, well...silly stuff. In this forum, you will many times find the more humorous sides of the forum, rather than the serious sides. This forum is the least dangerous of the non-debate related forums. However, it does sometimes (although not often) need a mental "Proceed With Caution" label on it. So in regards to this forum, keep in mind that while the moderators and administrators do all they can to keep it clean, it is possible for questionable content to slip through the cracks. *In many cases, the name of this forum is subject to change. But you will be able to identify it by its location on the forum, being directly under Controversy Corner and Serious Discussion
Everything Else Archives and The Lockbox are very much the same thing. The difference is this: a thread is moved to the Everything Else Archives is moved there generally because it has not been posted in for a while, but it has good, considerable content. So instead of being deleted, it is archived. The Lockbox, however, is the place where threads that had neither fruit nor content were moved and are, eventually, deleted en masse.
So now that you understand about the non-debate forums, how do you optomize your child's experience while using HSD? Simply by instructing them to not browse aforementioned forums without your supervision or consent. In this way, you need not be concerned with what your child is viewing on the forum. I hope that all of this made sense to you.
May the grace of our Lord be with you