What is a blog?
A blog is a Web page where someone posts entries or thoughts on a specific topic and invites readers to respond by posting comments of their own. Blogs can be personal – like online diaries – or more formal and professional. Anyone can write a blog and there is no shortage of platforms. In fact, some free sites such as Blogger.com will allow you to create a blog in just a few minutes.
Once you have a blog, what do you talk about?
There is a blog for any topic you can think of. For example, the MediaSmarts blog is a place for dialogue on media issues. The Canadian Journalism Project blog deals with journalism and Julie Powell’s blog, popularized by the film Julie and Julia, talks about French cooking.
Originally blogs were mainly text-based, but with the introduction of YouTube some bloggers are embracing video blogging – or “vlogs”. As with a regular blog, viewers can post their comments underneath the video.
To find out more about this, check out our section on Video sharing.
Teenagers are active bloggers – in fact, one-quarter of teens blog. Teenagers like blogging because, unlike an online profile, they aren’t judged by their appearance or age – just on how interesting the content of their blog is. Many youth use their blogs to Challenge stereotypes, give advice to peers, send community awareness messages and encourage activism.
Benefits of blogging for kids
There are lots of skills kids can pick up by blogging, including:
- Developing their writing ability: Teens are more motivated to write when they choose topics that are relevant to their lives. Blogging not only helps them become more prolific writers, it can actually develop more rigorous skills than school-based writing programs. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, blogging can foster the very types of intellectual exchange, analysis and argumentative writing style that universities value.
- Gaining creative multimedia skills: To develop a readership and maintain it, the blogger must post regular entries and make them attractive and interesting for readers by adding elements such as photos, videos and hyperlinks. This requires a certain mastery of multimedia tools.
- Developing and managing an online community: A blog becomes a highly social environment when readers respond to the main topic or other readers’ postings. This dialogue needs to be managed to ensure the conversation doesn’t become nasty.
Another advantage of using a blog to communicate with family and friends is that anyone can access it. Unlike Facebook where you have to be a member to view other people’s pages, kids can develop a blog site that all of their relatives can access.
Issues to watch for
Young people tend to treat their blogs and online profiles as though they are a private place – which is not the case. While some blogs can be password protected, this really defeats the purpose of sharing your thoughts with a broader community.
Young people need to be aware of the kinds of digital tracks they are leaving when they post anything online. In an age when employers, police, sports scouts and university administrative departments use the Internet to research potential employees and students, the Challenge for this generation is learning how to manage their online reputations. Learning what to reveal, what not to reveal and how to treat others online are essential new life skills that we need to teach our kids.
To find out more about protecting your privacy online, go to the section on Privacy.
Twitter and micro-blogging
Micro-blogging is a style of blogging that uses very short posts, and Twitter is the most famous of micro-blogging sites. It is used to post brief responses that are fewer than 140 characters long, including spaces, to the question “What are you doing?”.
It may be difficult to imagine what the use of a micro-blog might be unless one has experienced it firsthand. The best thing to do is to create an account and experiment. As this is a social networking tool, the most important thing to do once you have registered is create a network. One way to do this is by searching for keywords you might be interested in and by following people whose conversations grab your attention. The main advantage of Twitter is that it promotes the rapid flow of alternative ideas and information and the sharing of new links; those not found in newspaper headlines or obtained from a few influential bloggers.
Teens have been slow to embrace Twitter. In June 2009, comScore reported just 11 per cent of Twitter users were ages 12-17. Those numbers could grow as more musicians and celebrities use Twitter to reach out to their fans. Teens active in charity work report using Twitter along with Facebook to get information out about their causes and Twitter could be a helpful resource when doing school assignments that do not lend themselves to “classic” research. It’s important to remember, however, that like any other online search, you should always authenticate the information you’re given.