Blogging is no longer limited to adults. Children are hopping on the information superhighway and heading for venues like MySpace and LiveJournal. Both of these providers offer blogging services to children over the age of 13. And kids are taking them up on their offer. According the latest research by WiredSafety.org, an estimated 6 million children under the age of 18 have blogs through these services or others like them. Many of these children are also doing so without their parents’ knowledge.
Blogging, a published online version of a personal or professional journal, has quickly become one of the top forms of communication and information sharing on the internet. Allowing your daughter to blog certainly has its’ benefits. It can provide her with a wonderful creative outlet to express her inner thoughts and feelings. In addition, blogging can help improve her writing, social, internet, and technical skills.
But as is the case with most social media outlets, blogging can also open the door to dangerous liaisons with internet predators or cyber bullies. Online safety often becomes the central issue when children blog; which begs the question, should you allow your daughter to blog at all if she is under the age of 18? And if you choose to let her enter the blogosphere, how can you make sure your teen is safe?
As with most things involving your daughter connecting and sharing information with others online, there are things you can do as a parent to help.
Blogging Safety Guide:
- Break out the “Rule Book.” Parents should establish rules before allowing their teens to blog a single sentence. You may want to prohibit personal information such as her real name, address, phone number, etc. from being used on her blog to ensure no one she doesn’t know has access to private information. Pseudonyms are commonplace in the blogosphere for this very reason.
- Find a reliable blogging service. Choose a blogging service that allows your daughter’s personal information to be pass word protected so only her close friends can view her blog. Blogger and WordPress are both popular blog services that offer additional security meaures.
- Read her blog. Don’t let your daughter tell you that you are “invading her privacy.” The truth of the matter is that as many as 700 million people online may have access to the information she publishes. Reading her blog is not the same as digging through her drawers for her private diary. As a parent, it’s not only your right, but arguably your duty to occasionally browse the content of her blog. This also ensures that she is following the blogging rules you’ve agreed upon.
- Talk with her. Chat with your daughter about her blog. Ask her questions and listen to her answers. Use her blogging experience as a way to connect with her about issues that matter to both of you (yes, there are some of those even though she’s a teen). Make it known that you routinely read her blog and let her know what you enjoy about it. This will also help remind her that whatever she publishes online will be read by you. She may think twice about writing about inappropriate subjects.
- Google her. If you are ever in doubt about what your daughter’s really up to online, you can always “Google” her name. This internet search will give you a fairly complete picture of her online activities.
- Investigate questionable content. Trust is often the determining factor in whether or not parents allow their children to blog. If you stumble across a post that you have “questions” about, try not to jump to any conclusions until you talk with your daughter. Teens, by nature, tend to embellish their thoughts and feelings to impress their friends. That being said, if there is questionable content on her blog, it’s important to confront her and get to the bottom of the issue. Whether the content is a case of embellishment or indicative of a more serious problem, it’s important to address the issue promptly and directly.
- Pull the plug. If you suspect or discover any information on your daughter’s blog that “breaks” your rules or is too revealing, it’s time to pull the plug for a while. It’s important for your daughter to understand that there are consequences for her actions and that you mean what you say. Take her computer privileges away and disable her blog until she can prove she’s trustworthy again. It’s true that she may find other ways to chat online but it will make access to a computer much more difficult.