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The practice of blogging, short for keeping a "Web log" or online personal journal, is growing like wildfire—especially among teenagers, who sometimes maintain blogs without the knowledge of their parents or guardians.
Recent studies show that teenagers write roughly half of all blogs today, with two out of three providing their age, three out of five revealing their location and contact information, and one in five revealing their full name. It should go without saying that there are potential risks in sharing this type of detailed personal information.
And, as more young peers create more blogs, they tend to compete increasingly with each other for attention. Sometimes this can lead to kids posting inappropriate material such as provocative pictures of themselves or their friends.
A quick blogging primer for parents
Although keeping a blog offers potential benefits including improved writing skills and communication, it's important to educate your kids about the Internet and blogging before they begin—much like completing driving school before hitting the road solo. Here are a few suggestions to get started:
Establish rules for online use with your kids and be diligent.
Screen what your kids plan to post before they post it. Seemingly innocuous information, such as a school mascot and town photo, could be put together to reveal where the author goes to school.
Ask yourself (and instruct your kids to do the same) if you are you comfortable showing any of the content to a stranger. If in doubt, have them take it out.
Evaluate the blogging service and find out if it offers private, password-protected blogs.
Save the Web address of your child's blog and review it on a regular basis.
Check out other blogs to find positive examples for your kids to emulate.
Basic guidelines for bloggers
The following tips are a good place to start for kids interested in blogging, although by no means comprehensive. It's a good idea for parents to add more guidelines to suit their family's particular needs. Start by telling kids that they should:
Never offer any personal information including your last name, contact information, home address, phone numbers, school's name, e-mail address, last names of friends or relatives, instant messaging names, age, or birth date.
Never post provocative pictures of yourself or anyone else, and be sure any images you provide do not reveal any of the previously mentioned information. Always remember to look at the background of a picture too.
Assume what you publish on the Web is permanent. Anyone on the Internet can easily print out a blog or save it to a computer.
Use blogging provider sites with clearly stated terms of use, and make sure they can protect the actual blogs, not just the user accounts, with password protection. (Even so, it's better to assume anyone can see it.)
Avoid trying to "outdo" or compete with other bloggers.
Keep blogs positive and don't use them for slander or to attack others.
Ages 2 to 4
Ages 5 to 6
Ages 7 to 8
Ages 9 to 12
Ages 13 to 17
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