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A brief set of guidelines for parents and children interested in blogging (draft #1)

July 17th, 2005 · 2 Comments

Kids are gettin’ into blogging! Lisa Williams posted pictures taken by her son Rowan, age 3. Patrick Scoble has started podcasting with his dad. Mike Houser has made podcasts with his daughter too. Many other examples abound in the blogs. My kids have a blog, and since I switched to the Mac, they now have a flickr page, used for uploading photos to the blog, which may soon de facto become their blog anyway.

I’m excited to see others of the next generation begin to enjoy blogging. These younger ones will know fun and freedom that some of us had to wait years to enjoy. They will have a new culture based on their interaction from an early age with each other and the Internet.

[update: see Boris Mann’s post quoting Jonathan Dillon-Hayes: But, interestingly, much of the work which I admire the most is being done by guys and gals in their late teens and early 20s. This generation coming up after them is going to be amazing when it comes to throwing down with ip, ’cause they’re going to be the first ones who didn’t know about dialup, and grew up with the web. I can’t wait to see how embedded it is in their lives. ]

Yet at the same time I’m also concerned. We are living in a time of social transition. In the presentation I gave at Gnomedex last month [mp3], I described how the lines between public and private are changing. Through blogging, each of us can express who we are and say what we believe. This is something new to our society and world. As Steve Sloan has said, we can write and link our life stories. It’s exciting! However, no one knows what will happen tomorrow with what we say today. This week, as I thought about this topic, recent articles in The Chronicle of Higher Education [via Scoble] and AP [ via Dave Winer] described the potential dangers of blogging and the ways openness can affect employment. Not everyone wants to see everything we might want to write: judgments and decisions may be made based on what we’ve put in a blogpost. I believe also that there will be distinct generational differences, someday those who blog and have put large portions of themselves online will be the ones in positions of power. As I was writing this piece, I came across Dan Gillmor’s wise response to both recent reports:

At a Churchill Club event on blogging and other citizens media a little more than a year ago, I noted the relative permanence of what we post online and asked, “How long will it be before a President of the United States is elected who had a weblog as a teenager?”


I’ve said before, and repeat: We’d better start cutting each other some slack. People deserve some privacy, for starters, but they also deserve to be given leeway for what they’ve said when they were young, or in forums that have nothing to do with their employment.

Last week I received an email from family friends requesting my advice: the teenager would like to blog but the parents wanted to know what the risks were. I imagine that others may have similar concerns. Also this wasn’t the first time I was asked this question. So I thought I would post a brief set of guidelines. Please correct and comment. I will expand this list more in the future and edit it. I’m calling it a first draft of thoughts. Maybe it is too cautionary. But I believe parents and children who want to blog about their lives need to consider the consequences. I believe blogs can be a powerful tool to build bridges across generations. And I hope, as more and more people, both older and younger blog, we are able to look through each other’s eyes and find understanding.

Guidelines for Parents and Children Who Want to Blog (draft #1)

Articles on basic blogging resources: Many articles abound. Here are a few newer ones that have caught my eye in recent days.

Susannah Gardner’s excellent comparison of blogging tools in USC Annenberg’s Online Journalism Review complete with a helpful table.

Walter Mossberg’s Wall Street Journal review of three free blogging tools (MSN Spaces won as easiest)

New York Times Blogs 101 article has a list of collection and rankings sites, and blogs to read

Read first. Reading blogs will help you discover what you want to put on your own blog. Watch what happens to ideas as they bounce through blogs. Look at the use of pictures and links. Examine comments, and write some yourself. Make friends. Start a conversation. Comment and link to others! How to find blogs to read? Begin by searching with a tool and typing subjects into sites such as Google, Technorati, Feedster, Bloglines, PubSub. Many blogs link to others, or have a list of blogs called a blogroll on the side margin – this can also be a great way to find good reads. [note: for an easy way to keep up with the new content of favorite blogs, consider using an aggregator.]

Remember blogging is both permanent and public. A blog can seem like a quiet diary. But anyone can read it. Imagine that what you write could be printed in the newspaper, on the front page (this happened to me!) or yelled across the high school or town square. For example, you may want to think twice before publishing crushes, infatuations or fights with friends and family.

Consider what could happen to what you write. Search engines, such as Google.com, store information immediately after it is published, even if it is later erased by you from your blog. What you say will be associated with your blog and name. Imagine what might happen if someone found what you wrote ten or twenty years from now. Who knows who will find your blog and how many will read it. What you say may be used against you. Then again what you say may encourage many.

Respect others. Be kind. Do onto others as you would have them do onto you. Use your blog as a tool to build better relationships with your family, friends and community.

Preservation. Allow relationships to be the way they were before the blog. Respect others’ privacy and give yourself some too. Have a life and blog only part of it.

Give credit where credit is due. If you are continuing a conversation or if you are mentioning someone else’s idea, use a link to let others know where you found the goodies. Be fair and generous.

Be truthful – if you want others to trust you. People may discover when you are lying to them. If you’re pretending to be someone else, playing a character or writing fiction in your blog, make it clear. Trust builds bridges.

Be safe. Do not reveal daily routines when you are alone. For example, don’t blog about how boring it is when you walk half a mile to the bus stop on Daisy and Fourth each morning by yourself. Don’t mention that your parents leave you alone on Saturday nights. Don’t reveal vacations until you come home. Keep your address and neighborhood private. I would not make plans to meet any other bloggers unless it was in a public place, with parents, such as a Meetup. I would also hesitate before revealing IM names. An email address on the blog can be helpful for finding friends and making contacts – but I’d recommend creating a special email address to post on the blog. I would never post a phone number or street address especially on a child’s blog. Some bloggers have gotten P.O. boxes – and presents too.

Protect your identity. Depending on the community where you live, you may want to post only by your first name. Keep your birthday and place of birth private. Also your mother’s maiden name. I keep secret anything that can be used to create identification. I’ve chosen not to post pictures of my daughter’s faces so that they have some privacy and a little anonymity. Photographs, once placed on the web, can be used by anyone for anything. I’ve seen one blogger take down all her family photos after someone else decided to pretend her family was his, and post her pictures on his website. Be creative when taking pictures of people – there are many angles that don’t involve faces! – and ask permission before posting pictures of others on your blog. [Update: see Chris O’Donnell’s Paranoid about Pedophiles post with links to Take Your Children Offline NOW and a counteresponse.]

Post pictures! Photographs of small objects on generic backgrounds (flowers, pets or toys, for example) as well as pictures of public places (parks, cities) seem safest in my opinion for posting. Show something beautiful (to quote Dave Winer). Use a camera to capture what no one else sees.

Let others see what life is like for you! While I believe that children (and parents) should be cautious when posting photos, I also believe that a child’s perspective is precious. I’ve learned a lot from looking through my daughter’s eyes and seeing what she sees, as revealed by the pictures she takes. From comments I’ve received, I think others enjoy their pictures too. Write or record descriptions to share.

Monitoring. Depending on how old your child is, and how much you trust her, you as a parent may want to carefully monitor all blogging activity. My daughters post only with my help: they are not allowed on the computer by themselves. Watch what your child is watching. Of course, kids may want to watch what mom and dad are watching too.

Use a stats package. Check it at least once a week. Watch who is watching you. Find out who wants to talk to you and if possible, continue the conversation.

Share it together. Create posts (write, photograph, record) as a family, as parent and child together. Dialogue. Talk about what you are reading and creating. Enjoy blogging as a family.

Make connections and community. Find others with similar interests or other bloggers in your community. Use Technorati, Feedster, Bloglines or PubSub and search. Check often and discover new blogs and new relationships.

Give gifts. A blog is built on generosity. It can be a way to bless and encourage others. Say thank you. Link to what you like. Find friends across cultures and continents. Tell people in your life that you love them.

Have fun!

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Katherine // Jul 18, 2005 at 1:46 am

    Cool list, thanks!

  • 2 Jenny // Jul 25, 2005 at 10:57 pm

    Wow – that was great Julie. You spent a lot of time on that.

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