Martha Payne made headlines recently when her local Scottish council moved to have her blog shut down. And they might have, if not for massive public outcry - Argyll and Bute Council lifted the gag after less than 48 hours. So Payne must be someone pretty important, right? A political blogger, or an extremist, a close friend of Julian Assange? Not even close! Martha Payne is just nine-years-old, and she’s leading a swelling surge of young, motivated, global bloggers.
Payne’s website, NeverSeconds, could just be another food blog, detailing – with photos – her daily school rations. But her determination to expose the lack of nutritious options meant that she found none other than school lunch heavyweight Jamie Oliver in her corner. Despite the near ban, they have now raised almost £90,000 ($140,000) to provide healthy school lunches to children in some of the world’s poorest countries.
Yes, the first generation of kids born during the boom time of the internet is now old enough to blog (this becomes more apparent to me every time I check on the progress of my crows feet). Recent surveys suggest that more than 80 per cent of them have regular access to the internet via a computer, a smartphone or a tablet, which means these digitally savvy primary schoolers are more exposed to world events than any that have gone before them. Now they’re starting to realise they have voices too.
In our own hemisphere, 12-year-old Tegan has taken to the World Wide Web to champion her own passion. Wildlife Emergency is a blog dedicated to raising funds to support wildlife rescue and rehabilitation – a noble cause by anyone’s measure. “I am wild about wildlife!” she says, and it is obvious in everything she puts into her blog. “They cannot speak to us like we speak to each other. We have to learn to be kind and live with them.” Tegan has written for independent favourite Crikey Magazine and raised almost $25,000 in support of wildlife rescue. At twelve. She is one seriously motivated individual.
Of course, not at all tween bloggers are driven by social change. Some of them, like their grown up equivalents, just love to write. Jasmine is ancient now that she’s nine, but she penned her first blog entry as a plucky seven-year-old. With her parents and siblings, she travels the country in search of the perfect photograph and the most gripping tale to pop on Great Aussie Road Trip. “Jasmine focuses on sharing what she loved about the places she stayed. That keeps it relevant to her, and her age group,” says her mum, Rachel Power.
We believe experience is a great teacher so we created a safe space where they can show their authentic selves. Our hope is that by the time they're in their teens they'll already know how to present themselves positively and to weather the inevitable storms without taking it too personally.
That all sounds pretty good, but it’s a big, scary internet out there – how are the parents of these budding writers keeping them safe? Power says that privacy should be paramount: “I am the one who approves all the posts before they go live on the website.” Being across what your child is saying online, and what is being said back to them, should take priority.
Karen Taylor, who writes at Tiny Trifles alongside her children, believes in giving them a solid foundation for online safety. “Like many parents, we're trying to figure out how to help the kids manage their online footprint responsibly,” she says. “We believe experience is a great teacher so we created a safe space where they can show their authentic selves. Our hope is that by the time they're in their teens and using a variety of social media, they'll already know how to present themselves positively and to weather the inevitable storms without taking it too personally.”
So how do you get your own wannabe tween blogger (hereafter ‘twogger’) set up with their online digs?
- Ask them what their goal is: do they want to make a statement, raise awareness, make friends or just write stories?
- Check out what other kids are doing online and think about why they’re making waves
- Talk to them about why it’s important to think about what they say online
- Set yourself up as a user, so you can be across their posts and comments
- Think about making their posts private (only visible to people who have the password)
- Encourage them to blog with passion!
Wordpress and Blogger are the two main players in the blogosphere (yes, it comes with its own vocabulary!). Both are free to use and come with the usual suspects of bloggery features: adding posts, uploading images, linking to other sites and encouraging comments. For a tween, Wordpress offers greater protection, allowing an administrator (that’s you!) to control what is allowed to go up on the site and the way others are able to interact with it.
It only takes a few minutes to get the blog ready and live: it is just a matter of a few clicks, an original name, a splash of colour and an idea!
What do you think? Is blogging onliine a good way for kids to express themselves and share what's important to them? Discuss on the Essential Kids Forums.