When I was 10 years old, my parents convinced me to keep a diary – with the promise that if I kept it up for the whole year, I would be able to go to Hamley’s in London the next Christmas to choose my present. On the whole, it wasn’t a massive success, a lot of the time that day’s entry would be little more than a fleshed out list of what I had done at school. But I persevered and that Christmas we took the trip to Regents Street where I was rewarded with a baseball set and the Gary Lineker board game. Well it was the late 80’s…
While this didn’t develop into a passion for diary writing, it did allow me to reflect on the activities I was doing – the entries for the weekend were written much more enthusiastically than those on school nights. Consider the modern day equivalent of the diary – the blog. Assuming they are old enough to type, creating a blog with them could reward them with all sorts of benefits that will serve them for years to come, if not for life.
By starting a blog as a joint project you can be in control of how they first interact online, and shape the habits and the etiquette of the way they share and what they reveal. It costs nothing – there are many blogging sites out there to choose from, and all of them require you log in to post so you can control the password, meaning you don’t have to worry about them gaining access and posting content until you are confident they have learnt the ground rules.
Use this activity as a spring board to starting discussions about what people put online. That all websites are written by someone somewhere – it doesn’t just magically appear. Talk to them about how people respond to each other, this can lead on to discussing some of the potential negative aspects of online interaction, and how they should be dealt with. All of this can take place within the safety of your supervision and allows you to put into practise what you’ve talked about – far easier to grasp the concept of how much is too much when it comes to what you say about your life.
Lastly, the potential benefits of teaching your child to be a confident internet user is the world it opens up to them. They can investigate and share their passions, join groups and use their online time to enrich their real world ‘offline’ lives. The things that excite them can open up opportunities for learning and experiences that can shape their futures. Understanding how the technology works will stand them in good stead for future employment, without having to worry about erasing any embarrassing digital foot print.