Debian Jr. Project
Debian for children
This is a Debian Pure Blend (in short Blend). Our goal is to make Debian an OS that children of all ages will want to use. Our initial focus will be on producing something for children up to age 8. Once we have accomplished this, our next target age range is 7 to 12. By the time children reach their teens, they should be comfortable with using Debian without any special modifications.
Debian has set up an email list for this group. You can subscribe to it or read the mail archives.
We have a realtime discussion channel, #debian-jr on irc.debian.org and a XMPP multiuserchat firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have a Team Blog for project news and updates.
We have a Debian Jr. community site where developers and users alike are encouraged to contribute to the Debian Jr. project.
What can I do to help?
We would be interested to hear what you think Debian Jr. could be doing, particularly if you'd like to help make it happen.
The junior-doc package contains the Quick Guide.
Packages in Debian Jr.
Debian Pure Blends are creating overviews over the packages in which are interesting for the target user group.
Debian Jr. Goals
Making Debian desirable to children
The primary goal of the Debian Jr. project is to make Debian an OS our children want to run. This involves some sensitivity to the needs of children as expressed by the children themselves. As parents, developers, older siblings, sys admins, we need to keep our ears and eyes open and discover what it is that makes computers desirable to children. Without this focus, we can easily get sidetracked trying to achieve abstract goals like "user friendliness", "simplicity", "low maintenance", or "robustness" that, while they are certainly laudable goals for Debian as a whole, are too broad for addressing the specific needs and wants of children.
Naturally, children have different needs and wants from adults in the applications they choose to run. Some of these will be games, while others will be word processors, text editors, "paint" programs, and the like. The goal is to identify the highest quality applications available within Debian that are suitable for children, add to that number by packaging ones not yet in Debian, and ensure that the chosen applications are kept in a well-maintained state. One implementation goal is to provide meta packages to make installing groups of "child friendly" applications easier for the sys admin. Another is to improve our packages in ways that particularly matter for children, which could be as simple as filling in holes in the documentation, or could be more complex, involving work with the upstream authors.
Childproofing and account management
The idea here is not to necessarily to implement tough security measures. That is beyond our mandate. The goal is simply to provide sys admins with documentation and tools for setting up their systems so that their naturally curious child users will not "break" their accounts, soak up all system resources, or otherwise do things that require constant sys admin intervention. This is a more of a concern for child users than adults, as they tend to explore and deliberately push the system to the limits just to see what happens. The messes that result can be at once both amusing and frustrating. This goal is about keeping your sanity (and sense of humor) as a child's sys admin.
Learning to use the computer
The "Childproofing" goal needs to be balanced with the goal of allowing children to try things (and yes, break things) and find solutions to their problems. Learning to use the keyboard, GUI, shell, and computer languages are all things that parents and children alike need some tips to help get them headed in the right direction.
Discover and implement both GUI and text-based interfaces that work well for and are attractive to children. The idea is not to re-invent the user interface, but to add value to existing tools and packages (window managers, menu system and so forth) by providing some convenient pre-selected configurations that we find work best for children.
Give parents (and in some cases, older siblings) the tools to help their children (or siblings) learn about computers and to put reasonable limits on their access, guiding them towards independent use of the computer as they mature. For example, many parents will be concerned about regulating Internet use to protect their children until they reach a suitable age to deal with mature content. The important thing to remember is that the parents will chose what they think is best for their children. The Debian Jr. group does not make this judgement, but is there to help provide the tools and documentation to help the parents with these decisions. That being said, I think this goal should focus more on the "guidance" aspect than restriction, as the former is a positive activity while the latter is negative.
While our first goal as children's sys admins will probably be to set up the children with accounts on our own systems and populate it with applications that they enjoy, there comes a time when we contemplate getting them their own system. The most ambitious realization of this goal might be a Debian software equivalent of the "toy" computers currently on the market: brightly colored, decal-covered systems pre-loaded with software appealing to children of a specific age range. It is important to keep in perspective that this would still be a Debian system, not some fork from the Debian distribution. It is a perfectly achievable goal through the Debian package management system (via meta packages, for example) and should not require a fork in development to produce a special Debian "children's edition".
While English may be the "universal" language, not all children speak it as their mother tongue. And while internationalization should be a goal of Debian itself, language problems are amplified when dealing with children. Children will not want to use Debian if support for their language is not there, and will find it more comfortable to use other OS's where language support is better. Therefore, we do need to keep this in mind.