Teens and Blogging
In this era of social networking and online connections, many teens want to start blogging. Blogs have been around for about 10 years. The word ‘blog’ stands for ‘web log’ and essentially refers to online diaries, though people blog about a wide variety of topics. Blogging can be an entertaining and educational hobby, so do not immediately discount the idea of your teen creating one. It can improve his or her writing and research skills and motivate them to think in new, creative ways. The primary problem with allowing a teen to blog is safety. Your goal as a parent is to give your teen the freedom they require to explore their world and connect with others, but protect them from the objectionable facets of sharing information online. This is not an easy task, but we have some suggestions. The most important thing you can do before you even allow your child online, let alone blogging, is to talk to them about the rules and clearly define what your teen is allowed or not allowed to do. You might even want to draw up a contract, with your teen’s input, that includes consequences for infractions. Here are some things to consider:
Tell your teen you will be supervising their online activities. Parents should not snoop! But, there should be an understanding between the teen and parent that you will only allow this privilege if you have the ability to monitor it. You should explain that you will randomly be checking his or her blog and other social media sites, but allow them to be present when you are doing the checks. Talk to them (and be ready to listen) as you monitor so that you can talk to them about hypothetical situations and address issues as they arise. Don’t allow the computer to be in your teen’s room. It is impossible to monitor your teen’s online activities when you aren’t able to look over his/her shoulder, and he/she may take too many risks. You can try to make this a more positive experience by going on their blog occasionally and posting a really positive comment – this will open a whole new way to connect with your teenager!
Require your teen to provide you with a list of their internet addresses and passwords. Again, this is not so the parents can snoop! You should absolutely respect his/her privacy and only use his/her passwords in an emergency. However, just as you know which friend’s house your teen is visiting, you should also know which websites your teen is visiting. Have your teen write down all of the internet addresses and passwords of his/her blogs or social networking (MySpace, Facebook, etc.) sites. Make it your teen’s responsibility to keep you updated if his/her password changes.
Establish a rule that your teen never share their password with anyone else. Be clear that your teen should never allow anyone else to post on their blog, nor should they share their password with anyone (besides the list they give to their parents). Tell them to log all the way out of the service when they are done. That way, no one can pose as your teen and post gossip or negative comments.
Remind your teen that personal information must remain private. Most kids have heard from at least one adult to never share personal information online, but to them that means their address and phone number. Many children are quite willing to share their real name, age, school name and location, parents’ work places, friends’ names, photos of themselves or friends, etc. because they don’t actually believe that information could lead a potential predator to them. Additionally, it’s important that a teen’s screen name does not readily identify them as a minor. Beyond these important safety issues, it’s also important on a blog that you don’t share other people’s problems, secrets or information. A teen may be so excited about sharing some big news at school that they forget that information might hurt someone else. For example, the secret their best friend shared with them yesterday is off-limits. They shouldn’t be posting photos of friends without their permission.
Inform your teen that blog posts are permanent and available for the entire world to see. Explain to your teen that, to people who don’t know you, you are what you write. You should be picky about what goes in your blog. Tell your teen that, right before they post, they should ask themselves if they would feel comfortable with their next door neighbor, current teacher, a college admissions officer, or their future in-laws reading their post. Sharing intimate details or photos online can create future problems. Comments, actions or images posted online are permanent, despite your best efforts to delete material.
You can learn more about keeping your teen safe online by reading our previous blog: Internet Behavior is Public Behavior and All Teens Know About Internet Safety Nowadays… Right?