Kids and Blogging
My oldest has been begging me to blog on my blog which is funny because she normally finds my blogging to be annoying. Today Mashable had this really great article on helping kids create their own blog. Caveat: if you do this, your kids will then be your technical support because we all realize that kids will be better at the tech stuff than we parents. I am going to help her, but this will require us to get another computer!
p.s. Please note the really great blog, Laura’s Life, on Newbery Winners by 10-year-old Laura Mito on my blog roll as inspiration for letting your children blog! There is another much talked-about blog about pre-teen fashionista NYC couture blogger but her blog’s name escapes me.
p.p.s. I have used WordPress.com, WordPress.org and Blogger. I’d use WordPress.com or Blogger for children. Wordpress.com is free and has great technical support. Blogger is also free and is a tad easier than WordPress.
Reporters from The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times probably didn’t expect to be joined by TechNewsKids, a blog run by 11-year-olds. Yet all three covered Apple’s press conference this September. Benno Kass and Max Iger of TechNewsKids watched the live-stream of the announcement online so that they could “live blog” its contents as soon as possible.
Simplified blogging platforms and increased access to online information — even breaking stories like the Apple announcement — make it easier than ever for Kass, Iger and other young bloggers to independently post to the web. And as they post, they’re also learning how to research, write and use a web publishing platform.
Parents should be thrilled by this educational opportunity, says Dr. Patricia Fioriello, the author of kidslearntoblog.com. Unfortunately, they’re more often unsure of how they can help their children take advantage of it.
It doesn’t need to be daunting. To help their children get started blogging, she suggests parents follow these five simple guidelines.
1. Learn About Blogging Yourself
The best way to learn is by doing, and parents who want to help their children set up a blog should set up their own blogs first in order to educate themselves and model good online behavior.
“I know that might sound time consuming and silly or pointless,” Fioriello says. “But through action and modeling, your child is going to get the benefit of your learning.”
Even if you have no intention of having anyone read your blog, try setting one up on a simple site like WordPress, Tumblr or Blogger. In some cases, your child might already know a lot more about this process than you do. That’s OK, says Karl Meinhardt, who helped develop a pilot social media program in a Portland, Oregon middle school last year.
“I would argue the kids can help the parents in terms of setting up the blogs,” he says. “But where the parents come in is helping students identify… different things they’re passionate about or help them understand how to express themselves in that actual space.”
2. Choose an Appropriate Blogging Platform for Your Child
“Some people do not like to hear this, but I really feel very strongly that a child’s interest in blogging and social media should be encouraged as young as they’re interested,” Fioriello says.
But that doesn’t mean that every type of blog is appropriate for every child.
There are a number of blogging sites specifically designed for children that provide some moderation and exclusivity. Teachers can use platforms like Edmodo or Kidblog.org to organize and monitor classroom blogs. At home, children can sign up for blogs on monitored sites like kidzworld or Kidswirl.
Kass and his parents, Ron and Terry, decided to use an unmonitored platform that would allow everyone on the web to read the blog. This was decided for various reasons: Kass’ parents trust his maturity and discretion at age 11, the technical aspects of putting a blog up were something Kass wanted to learn, and Kass was blogging about technology, not his life.
Fioriello, who has worked in education for more than 25 years, says there’s no magic age when a child is better suited for a particular blogging platform.
“Keep a focus,” she tells parents. “What is your goal, what is your objective, what do you want [your child to learn from the blog]? And then take into consideration the age of your child and research things that would be appropriate.”
3. Teach Your Child About Safety and Citizenship
For many parents, the idea of their child posting information to an anonymous audience on the Internet is frightening. These concerns are justified, but there are ways to reduce the risks without banning a blog.
Kass’ parents, for instance, have some boundaries: He doesn’t post photos of himself on the blog (even when it makes sense for a story), he doesn’t use his last name, and the only way to contact him is via an e-mail address his parents monitor.
For the most part, they don’t consider the blog to be much of a risk. “I don’t think that’s any different on the online world than if you’re out meeting somebody in the not-online world,” Ron says. “I think you just have to instill in your kids kind of a radar.” Make sure they know that if something feels wrong, they should immediately try to remove themselves and talk to a parent about it.
Blogging can also be an excellent opportunity to teach children the appropriate way to interact online. Liz Delmatoff, a 7th and 8th grade teacher who started using blogs in her Portland, Oregon classroom last year, added “citizenship and safety lessons” to her curriculum.
She taught kids why her safety rules were important by showing them a YouTube video about how easy it is to find where someone lives using only the information they post on their profile. She also discussed what was appropriate for students to put in the comments on each other’s blogs, and other guidelines for posting to community spaces.
4. Enhance the Educational Experience
“[Blogging] became something that Benno [Kass] could do and get a little help from his parents, and it didn’t really feel like homework, but it’s still building a lot of skills and a lot of education for him at the same time,” says Ron, Kass’ father and the sole investor in TechNewsKids.
There are a number of ways parents can add to the inherent educational value of blogging.
Kass’ mother, Terry, helps Kass edit each post for grammar and punctuation. His father helped him design the site’s logo. And the family often discusses story ideas and current tech news together.
Aside from the obvious benefits of working with children on their writing, parents can add value to the experience by pushing their children to explore a particular passion, discussing content and the research process, or by exploring the global reach of Internet communities.
5. Monitor What Your Child Posts Online
Put some sort of supervision in place. This doesn’t necessarily mean that every post needs to be pre-approved or that parents should watch over their child’s shoulder every moment he or she is working on a blog. Some parents are more comfortable if they keep the computer in an open space, make sure any e-mail associated with the blog is delivered to an account that they have access to, and check the blog daily. The amount of monitoring that is appropriate depends on your child.
“You know best the maturity and how much interaction your child can handle,” explains Fioriello. “Supervise them or monitor them or check their browsing history. Do whatever you need to do as a parent, but still allow them to grow and learn.”