Does your child have a particular passion that could be explored more through writing or photography? Blogging is an educational way for kids to practice their writing and research skills over the summer while interacting with a receptive audience at the same time.

Take a cue from teachers. Pernille Ripp, a 5th grade teacher, introduced blogging to her students four years ago. She says the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

"Parents love that it provides them with a look into what is happening with their child in school and what their child is thinking. It also allows extended family to be part of the learning conversation. My students love it because of the conversation it starts and the ideas they can get from others," she says.

Why blog? Not only are kids learning to write to a target audience, they are enhancing their writing skills in the process.

"I've seen the rates of student writing really increase," says Sue Gorman, an Innovation Learning Consultant K-12 and adjunct professor for the Institute of Professional Educator Development for the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. "You aren't just turning this [writing assignment] into your teacher, you are turning this in as a global writer, a global thinker."

Get to know blogging. If you aren't sure how blogging works, open an account and play around with the platform. Learn how privacy settings work and familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions associated with the platform. Explore blogs your child likes. If your child is interested in art or photography, explore some professional artist and photography blogs. Consider what you and your child find attractive about these sites.

When is a good age to start blogging? Whether a child is ready for blogging or any other type of social media really depends on your child and her maturity level. Some teachers start kids blogging as early as second and third grades to flex their writing muscles with an encouraging audience. Educators use carefully moderated and secure sites like KidBlog.org.

Blog options. For the under 12 crowd, Kidzworld offers a safe, moderated platform for kids to blog with parental consent.

Your child could also blog through a free platform like Blogger or Wordpress; however, both platforms require that users are 13 and over. In this case, you might want to create a family blog that you facilitate. Make the blog private and invite family and friends to follow.

Since posts can still be forwarded (and nothing posted online is truly private), you'll still want to be careful about your child revealing too much personal information. (More on that shortly.)

Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram are especially popular among teens. These are "short-form multi-media" blogging sites. Members post photos, video and short posts. (Due to some of the content, these social media sites are not suggested for kids younger than 13.)

Community blogs. Gather a few of your child's friends who also like to write and encourage them to start a blog together. They can take turns posting and responding to each other's work.

Unsure where to begin? Focus your child on a particular topic or passion. Does she love to read? Encourage her to create an online book club where she posts reviews of different books she reads. Teach her how to link to the book and the author.

If your child loves photography, have him take pictures and create a photo blog.

Safety considerations. Naturally, your child's safety will be on the top of your mind.

Create a digital citizenship contract with your child to clarify your rules, expectations and consequences. Have your child sign the contract.

Talk about the types of information she should never share like:

  • Full name (she could choose a nickname instead of using her real first name if that makes you more comfortable)

  • Year of birth

  • The name and location of her school (including in photos)

  • Home address

If she includes a photo of herself, make sure it doesn't leave a digital footprint that reveals your location. Turn off geotagging by going into your privacy settings on your phone and turn off the location services under your camera app.

At least at first, review her posts before they go live to make sure she isn't inadvertently sharing information that could put her personal safety or identity at risk.

Discourage your child from using the blog like a private journal. He should ask himself questions like: Am I okay with Grandma or my teacher seeing this? Would I be embarrassed if my friends at school read this?

Post an email account on the site that goes to you first so you can review any correspondence that individuals are sending. This is a good way for you to filter mean-spirited emails that your child doesn't need to see. You might also show him examples of what spam and phishing emails look like.

Set up privacy settings to approve comments before they are posted. Hopefully, your child won't receive negative comments, but discuss the best ways to handle these types of scenarios and encourage your child to come to you first before responding, especially if she is upset or isn't sure how to manage the issue.


Other tips and resources:

If you're unsure about a particular app or social media platform, check out CommonSenseMedia.org, which posts reviews and recommendations for parents.

Set up a Google Alert with your child's name so you can be notified if their name appears online somewhere.


Freelance journalist Christa Melnyk Hines is the mom of two digitally-charmed boys. She is the author of "Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected: Raise a Thoughtful Communicator in a Digital World."