February 5, 2014

child blog: do's and don'ts

This the second post in the two-part discussion on kid blogging. In the first post, we talked about why it is a good idea to introduce blogging to children early in life. In the present post, we discuss the do’s and don’ts of engaging children in blogging.

Safety and privacy aspects of child blogging


1. Communicate with the kid. Ask him/her about the blog, give advice, offer to help. BUT not in an overbearing manner. Be subtle: be a partner rather than a warden or headmistress – they have enough of these creatures.
2. Discuss with them the specific subject of web-safety. Tell them, how giving personal information on the web – even to friends – can reach criminals and how they can exploit it. Give the blog a strong password and let it not be shared by many, let there be some comment moderation. Don’t put a high-quality photo or scan of an identity card on the net. Don’t mention address, school details and phone number of small children. If the child is a girl, let there be some extra caution in giving personal details on the web.
Don’t scare them but make them aware of the online risks. [You can think of tech tools and strong ways of monitoring and regulating the use of internet, but you should use these as a last resort. Again, these might be required more against their social networking and browsing activities than blogging.]

3. Check the content. It should not inadvertently divulge the kid’s or his parents’ or his friends’ exploitable secrets. It should not have hyperlinks with spurious websites.
4. Monitor. No over-snooping. No rough handling if you find them erring. Monitor what web-spaces they are visiting, what they are posting on the blog, what comments they are getting and how they are responding to comments, what personal info they are sharing on the web etc. Be careful not to hurt their egos and sensitivities especially when they are beyond 13 years or so; your tracking them could be counter-productive.
5. Assume guardianship if the kid is under 13. Generally speaking, for children younger than 13 years, open the account in your name and maintain the blog yourself, allowing the children all the creativity. A child can open a blog independently on Blogger and Wordpress only if he / she is of 13 years of age. Till then, their parents or some other adult needs to be the blog’s guardian. Some countries have a higher age for opening certain types of accounts on the net. In some case, the person needs to be a major, ie 18 years or older. For example, for opening YouTube and AdSense accounts.
6. If the child is slightly older and tech savvy, ask him/her to teach you skills. This will help you understand tricks of the trade; it will also open them up to you. If there are more than one kid in the house [of different ages], let them collaborate on internet; one will be a natural check against deviations by the other.
7. Take steps for general internet safety on computer. Try to keep the computer in a public place, configure the browser for safe browsing, install a program that pops up a warning when the kid visits an inappropriate site.
8. Protect the kid. There could be instances when you need to come upfront. Shoo off if you find a troll / stalking activity on any of their web spaces – blogs or networking accounts or email. Take charge. Even report to the police if you cannot handle the threat. Most nations now have cyber-security helplines or websites.

Blogging aspects


1. Prompt the kid to start a creative hobby that goes with the blog. Don’t force the kid to take up a hobby of your choice; let them choose one that they are naturally inclined to. For example, if you have given the child a pocket camera or a music synthesizer, let him post his photos / music on his blog. If the he wrote a poem for class recital, help him post it on the blog. Create a separate section for the kid’s poems so that he / she is enthused to write more poems to fill the section.
2. Encourage the kid to visit websites that have good content – content that will help them grow, do well in school, teach life-skills etc.
3. Unless necessary, don’t poke your nose. Children who can create and maintain their own blog should be allowed to do so themselves. Initial hand-holding and guidance, yes; doing their work, no.
4. Don’t ghost-write for the kid. If you pose as a kid and write his posts, you are hurting him and the blog. If you need to write posts on his behalf, introduce yourself and say, I’m his mother, and then write the post. But you should not do even this unless the kid is very young or he cannot update the blog due to illness, etc.
5. Open the kid’s blog on a free platform. If it progresses well, you can think of giving it an independent URL. We’d recommend Blogger for a kid’s blog more than Wordpress.
Tumbler? Since Tumblr encourages children to share more than create, often anonymously, we’d like to call it a social network than a blog, for the purpose of the present discussion, and we don’t recommend it. [In fact, because of this anonymity, a large number of children and young adults are reported to keep Tumblr blogs; it makes the blog difficult for parents to monitor.]
6. If introducing a very young child, say below 8 years, to blogging, do so in steps. Don’t overburden him. Create a simple page with his photo. Put lots of his and his friends’ photos from his birthday and picnic. Scan his hand-written poem or drawing and put it there. Let him draw on a simple drawing program such as Paint, and post this digital drawing on the blog. 7. Ask him what else he wants to put there – photo of his latest toy, a doodle of his teacher, a sketch by him of his grandma… Introduce a new step when he is comfortable with the craft and his skills grow. Let him make new sections, put sidebars, place widgets and so on when he can do these things himself.
8. Broadcast the blog far and wide. Let the kid hear appreciation from an uncle, a teacher, a friend’s mother.
While popularizing the blog is good, too much publicity and attention may not be good for the child emotionally and in terms of priorities. Don’t exaggerate the kid blogger’s accomplishments before others either online or offline.
9. ‘Me’ is OK but not too much of it – on a blog as much as in real life. Most kid blogs tend to be about the kid herself: my school, what I like in breakfast, what I shot during the excursion…
There could be different sections about aspects other than oneself, especially on older children’s blogs, e.g. must-see places in the vicinity, camera tricks, interesting info-nuggets about the city, a do-it-yourself craft, great stories, recommending a book, [for still older ones:] social concerns, fashion, cooking tips, hacks…
10. Enroll the blog in good directories. There are some good kid blog directories on the web; choose the one that suits your location.
Put a blogroll on the blog: list of blogs that the kid recommends to her peer group, list of great websites of children’s interest, friends’ blogs…
11. Let the kid maintain a balance between his / her school, physical activities, hobbies, social networking and blogging. With all its good points, blogging will hurt if it turns obsessive. Let the child limit her posts to about one a week or so, let there be no posts during exam days while there could be multiple posts during vacations. If the kid suffers from an obsession, let blogging not aid it. In such a case, think of a blog on an opposite theme if it finds favour with the kid; if an online activity has the potential to hurt the kid, decide against blogging at all – but we know, such a situation will seldom come.
12. Use normal blogging best practices: encourage children to blog regularly, respond to comments, comment on others’ blogs, say thanks to commenters when it is required, send emails to friends and relatives when the blog updates, etc.
13. Use normal naming best practices: give the blog a good URL [think of some long-term name so that the blog is usable when the child grows] and title.

Blogging prodigies


Some children bloggers have done exceptionally well. Want to see some examples? This girl wants take up fashion designing as her career and her blog will surely come handy in that. This blog is helping a budding chef take shape. You can read a library-full of book reviews by a mom-daughter team on this blogA girl started her blog at six as both her parents had their blogs and now her blog is a celebrity blog of sort. A four year old girl’s blog was run by her blogger parents till she could herself contribute. Can you believe that a kid of 13 years has been running this political blog. We reckon that this blog on bones, by a boy, has helped solve a few forensic mysteries too.

When the blogger thinks she's no more a kid. 


When the kid reaches middle level of schooling, he may like to have a blog where he can show his new exploits. That is the time, the old blog might look either insufficient or childish from the blogger’s perspective. There can be many ways how the assets created so far are preserved while the child moves on. We’ll leave this discussion here with some thoughts on what all can be done at that stage:

  • Keep posting on the blog. Have sections by way of tags or other means to separate the old [mostly personal] and new [mostly professional?] content.
  • Completely re-design the blog and keep the old content as one section.
  • Keep the old blog, open a new blog and bring some great stuff to the new blog.
  • Keep the old blog, open a new blog and give link from here to the old blog either in relevant discussions, or as an occasional nostalgic piece, or as a stand-alone link.    
  • Keep the old blog. Open a new blog with no cross-links.   
  • Carry the old blog to the next generation by gifting it to a child. Open a new blog for adult life.

3 comments:

  1. Visited your blog after a long time and found these superb articles. Very useful. One issue though. I visited three of the blogs you have listed in the blog. These do not meet the fine advice you have given. One of them was just a plain blog, not a great one I wished to see on your blog.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the kind words.
    We do not subscribe to blogging conduct of each of the blogs mentioned on this post. These are just a few examples of popular blogs by children an a variety of niches.

    ReplyDelete
  3. And look at this blog: teenfeminist Run by a 13+ blogger, Jules Spector, this blog seeks to promote feminism and uses her web presence 'to end child prostitution and child marriage in developing countries'...

    ReplyDelete

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