Has your homeschool teen considered starting a blog or website? Beyond the obvious benefit of practicing the skill of writing for an audience, blogging can function as an unconventional extracurricular activity. While online platforms like WordPress and Blogger make it easy for anyone to start up a blog quickly, parents are well-advised to offer some guidance and direction. Teens may be tech-savvy but they don’t always have the insight to understand some of the complex issues raised by writing for a public audience. Here are some tips to help your teen stay safe while successfully developing their writing skills through blogging.
Blog Not Diary: Choose Your Topic Wisely
Quality blogs usually focus more on information and ideas rather than just a journal of experiences or opinions. It will be more productive if the blog has a specific focus, especially if your homeschooler hopes to use their blog as an extracurricular activity for college applications. Often a narrower topic works better than a wide-reaching topic. For example, a blog about literature may leave the student with the feeling they don’t know where to start, whereas focusing specifically on reviews of classic science fiction may help them have a better starting place. The blog topic doesn’t need to be academic in nature for the student to learn. Whether they are writing about vintage cars, crochet, squid, or Korean soap operas, it is the regular practice of writing that makes blogging a meaningful activity.
Teens should regularly be reminded that nothing on the Internet is really private. It can be easy to feel that the Internet is vast and nobody but friends are reading your blog, when in reality blogs can be read by anyone. Through sites like the Way Back Machine, websites can last even after they’ve been pulled down by their creators. Teens should use common-sense precautions about personal privacy and remember not to publish anything they wouldn’t be happy to have their grandmother, future employer, or college admissions officer see. College admissions officers sometimes Google applicants and negative or inappropriate information can hurt a student’s chance of college admissions. Teens should pay attention to their online image including social media blogs.
Copyright and Images
Many new bloggers mistakenly assume that they are allowed to use any photos they find published on the Internet as long as it is for educational purposes. Google Images is not a free for all, and many images that are copyright protected. Teen bloggers should learn where to get copyright-free images for their blogs. Of course, one option is to take your own photographs. Another is to look for images that have been released to the public domain. Bloggers may also look into the use of Creative Commons images that require attribution to the photographer. Understanding plagiarism and copyright is an essential topic for high school English classes.
One reason many people enjoy blogging is the opportunity to get comments and feedback on their work. Unfortunately, as we’ve all seen, people can sometimes be mean and inappropriate so leaving comments unmoderated can be problematic. As anyone who has run a blog can attest, there are also many computer bots that leave spamming comments. Blogging software has settings that allow for privacy and moderation in comments and teens are well-advised to make use of those features.
Learn HTML and Graphic Design
While it is possible to put up a website or blog without learning a lot of technical information, it is a missed opportunity. Teens should be encouraged to take time to think about graphic design and pick up a little HTML along the way. It doesn’t have to be a major energy commitment, but blogging can be an excellent opportunity to develop these skills which can come in handy later.
Quality, Not Views
One pitfall for new bloggers is to become overly focused on page views and audience. While it is gratifying to know that people are finding your work, this should not be the primary focus. Excessive attention to the goal of building an audience can take away from quality writing. Encourage your teen to focus on their own enjoyment and education through the blog rather than getting attention from others.
Blogging is an excellent extracurricular for homeschool students. It is accessible and can help teens build a variety of useful skills. Following common sense precautions can make this a more meaningful and successful extracurricular activity.