“Should I allow my child to have her own blog?” It’s a good question and one we often receive from parents. Our answer is a resounding Yes—blog! blog! blog! But do so wisely.
Blogging can open up an incredible world of learning, self-expression, and technical skills for kids of almost any age. More and more teachers are encouraging students to blog to improve writing and language skills and as a way to begin building a positive digital footprint online.
Still, with all the positives of blogging, the mere idea of your tween or teen posting photos and personal thoughts online to a bunch of strangers can be frightening—and rightly so. However, there are ways to reduce the risks.
- Set Ground Rules. Establish rules for blogging and all online activities. For instance: Kids should never use their full names, physical or email addresses, list where they live or go to school, or make any reference to their personal plans. (Blog about vacations, fieldtrips, and events—after the fact).
- Monitor the content. At first, review what your child writes before he or she publishes it. This is a great opportunity to discuss potential problem areas and teach your child about staying safe online. Build trust and give your child wings (depending on age) to write freely. Check in on the blog often. An easy way to do this is to add an RSS feed plug-in to the blog. This allows you to subscribe to the blog and have posts sent directly to your inbox. It will furthermore give you a more full online snapshot of your child’s activity, friends, and links that may be attached to the blog.
- Set the blog to private. Nearly every blogging platform allows a blogger to set a blog to private. This means that only trusted friends can view it.
- Review reputation management. This bears repeating: go over the “forever” power of the Internet. Someone can instantly download any questionable photos, posts or comment responses that your child publishes—and it can’t be retrieved.
- Breathe then post. Guide your child emotionally. Counsel them not to post when they are angry, defensive, or in the middle of a conflict. Expressing oneself through writing (or photos) is admirable—but editing is critical.
- Encourage, encourage, encourage. Don’t get so caught up in the safety angle of your child blogging that you forget to applaud the good moves your child or teen makes online. Read and affirm their talent, ideas, perspective, and creativity—often.
The reality is that if your child wants a blog, they will find a way to set one up. Self-expression is the goal of a majority of kids online today. Options like Tumblr, Facebook Notes, MySpace, all make some form of blogging easy and appealing. So, giving the thumbs up to an “official” blog is a great way to keep communication flowing and stay on top of online activity. Who knows, your child just may inspire you to jump into the blogosphere if you haven’t already!