Blogging, Privacy & Kids
Blogging is a fantastic creative outlet. By creating their own blog, kids learn basic programming, create graphics, explore elements of design, and practice writing. But before starting, kids should think about content, privacy and copyright. Below is a quick guide to help ready a child for blogging.
What goes on a blog?
My child was excited to play with graphics, colors, backgrounds, themes and fonts. As far as creating content, she had no ideas. I started with having her draft an outline of her blog. I asked her about what pages she would have and what would be on each page? Would she have pictures or videos? Would she link to other blogs? Would she allow comments?
Who is this blog for?
Who is going to see the blog? Is this blog for herself, close friends, the entire school, the entire world? She decided it would be just for friends. In this case, a child may want to create a login page.
Most hosting services, such as Blogger or WordPress, allow a blog to be password protected. However, passwords have a way of getting out. Even with a password protected blog, kids should be aware their blog could be read my more people than they realize.
The default is to have a blog searchable on google, yahoo etc. This setting can be changed to unsearchable for major search engines. Unless your child is interested in designing a blog for the masses, I would recommend making it unsearchable.
What not to include in the blog?
Kids should not include any identifiable personal information in their blog. They should never use their full name, address, phone number, e-mail, birth date, school name, school mascot or other identifiable information. Instead of using a real name, kids can use a nickname just for their blog.
Can I post my own pictures?
If they are older and the blog is only close friends and family, you may want to add photos. Remember, do not include photos of friends or family without their permission. Even if unsearchable and password protected, pictures can still be downloaded and copied. Make sure all images are appropriate and do not reveal any personal information (i.e. name of school in the background).
Can I allow comments?
Unlike websites, blogs are interactive and most allow people to comment. For younger kids, it might be best to either not allow comments or make sure you screen the comments first. If an older child wants to have a dialogue with their friends, they can allow for comments. Most blogs allow for comments to be reviewed before posting on a blog. Your child can even set up an acceptable use policy for their blog describing what type of comments will not be allowed (no bad language, no mean comments, etc.).
What service to use?
Some of the most popular blog sites, WordPress, Blogger & Live Journal, do restrict registration to kids 13 and over. Unlike Facebook, the registration process does not require a birthdate but the age restriction is stated in their terms of service. Unfortunately, for kids under 13, the blog world is pretty limited especially a free blog.
Should I monitor their blog?
With a young child, you may want to review their writing before it is published. This is a great opportunity to identify any issues and talk more about personal information and internet etiquette. For an older kid, you may just want to periodically visit their site. Make sure to read all of their content and comments and follow all of their links to see what videos and content is included.
As your child is blogging they may find information for other websites they want to add to their blog. Below are some quick answers about copyright. If they are using a lot of other people’s content, check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Guide for Bloggers for more detailed information about copyright.
Can I copy anything off the internet?
No. Copyright protects original works including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works. These works are automatically protected as soon as written or produced. Copyright protection does not need to be marked with a copyright symbol or registered. Even your child’s writing is copyrighted.
If kids want to post something off another website, they can do so if
- They have attained permission from the author. This includes friends and family. Kids should get in the habit of asking for permission before posting a picture or video on the web.
- It is a government website. These websites will end in “.gov”
- The website gives permission through a license. Many websites use a Creative Commons License . These licenses provide a standard way for authors to declare their works “some rights reserved”. Usually the website will state how someone can use the information and how it is to be identified.
- They are only using a little bit. If only using part of an article this may fall under fair use. There is no precise word count or percentage for what is considered fair use. If in doubt, e-mail the author for permission.
- It is a fact or an idea. The earth is round is not copyrightable. It is a fact. Other examples would be a cheetah runs 75 mph.
Even if not legally required, it is always nice to provide a link back to the where you found the information. I love blogs that provide lots of links for the curious mind.
Can I post someone else’s picture or video?
Images are subject to the same copyright and fair use laws as written materials. If using a picture or video, even if from a friend, always ask for permission before posting.
Revised September 13, 2011