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As an educator, I’m a big fan of writing–journaling in particular. I really can’t say enough about it. Journal writing does wonders for both personal and academic growth. From creative and critical thinking, to problem solving, to communication skills, journaling is indeed the bomb. And I’m not the only one that thinks so.Consider the following from a recent article at by Sara Kahne,

“Therapists, doctors, social workers and teachers have all found journaling to be a productive tool–particularly for at-risk teenagers. Steffanie Lorig is the executive director of the Seattle-based nonprofit Art with Heart. ‘Many programs and hospitals across the country utilize the healing benefits of journaling with teens who are depressed, chronically ill, are dealing with violent or traumatic past histories, or are struggling with addiction,’ Lorig says.

The exercise of listening to your inner emotions and then letting them go helps to strengthen developing self-identity and confidence, while at the same time improving written communication and artistic skills. It becomes an important tool in clarifying personal goals and values,’ she says.”

But there’s more. Consider this, from the same article:

“Journaling may even have physical benefits fro teens. University of Texas researcher Dr. James Pennebaker in his book, Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions, explores how writing down thoughts and feelings can improve both physical and mental health. He concludes that the benefits include improved blood pressure, insomnia, physical well-being, and immune function.

Blogging: high octane journaling

As a writer myself, I’m a big fan of blogging. So logically, I support student bloggers. And if you read this eye-popping article about the 5 best and youngest bloggers, you’ll see how publishing a blog can really give a kid a boost. I’ve even used blogs in my classroom from time to time. I’m always encouraging writing, and I see blogging as a great way to enhance a budding writer’s experience.

Because there is an element of publishing involved (meaning it is available for others to read), blogging can nudge students to study and improve their personal mastery of the craft of writing.

But blogging can have the additional benefit of creating a feeling of belonging. Consider a recent story by MSNBC in which Perry Kairis blogged about his experience battling lymphoma. “The benefits are tremendous,” said Dr. Chinn, Kairis’s physician. “You’re basically creating your own virtual therapy and the good thing is you can cut in and cut out when you choose to and you can do it at your own pace.”

So why are some parents still forbidding blogging?

When it comes to blogging, however, many parents don’t share my enthusiasm.

This blog is a very public one, and while I don’t talk about it with my students at school, many know I write. So it’s quite common for students to read and comment on my blog.

Sometimes I reply to such comments by encouraging the student to start their own blog. Often, however, the student will reply in turn by stating that his or her parents won’t allow it.

For me, of course, it has to stop there. As a parent myself, I respect the wishes of other parents–without question–especially parents who are involved and obviously trying to protect their children.

And with stories like the following, I really can’t blame parents for putting the lid on a child’s internet use. Consider the following real headlines.

Girl, 13 Murdered by Man from Internet Chatroom

“Officials focus on Internet use in sex crimes”

13-Year-Old Rape Victim Met Attacker Online

Yeah, I know–Yikes!

So what can we do about this? There must be some middle ground we can all agree on.

5 safe ways for parents to support a young blogger

So here’s my list:

  1. Talk with your kids about the purpose for having a blog. Ask your child questions that encourage them to think critically about why they want to be a blogger. Why do they want to go public as opposed to having a private journal? Who is their intended audience? Will they be telling their friends about it? And then always follow up by asking “Why?” Establish trust for this new project. Let your child know that you support him, you’re interested, and that you’re both in this together.
  2. Create a theme. Come to some agreement about what sorts of posts will appear. Narrowing, or limiting the range of topics is a great first step in any writing project.
  3. Set guidelines to encourage privacy and internet safety. Discuss and agree to protect your and the child’s privacy. This includes passwords, phone numbers, pictures, or addresses of any kind.
  4. Monitor comments, but don’t be a lurker. Read your child’s blog often and comment on it as well. Your child will appreciate the online feedback, but they’ll also know that you’re paying attention.
  5. Be open. Nurture trust and communication. Encourage them to talk to your about any online problems they might have. That means tech problems too. They should understand that you are concerned about their safety but that you are also their to support them in other ways as well.

The effort and time you invest teaching your child to think critically about the internet, their safety, and how social networking works will pay dividends for years to come.

Looking for more? Consider checking out these sites for more great information on blog and internet safety:

Blog Safety Community: Smart Socializing Starts Here is a great site with a forum to support a community of folks with questions and answers about internet, blog, and social network safety. Some good articles as well. touts itself as the worlds largest internet safety and help group. This is a large site with lots of articles, tips and information. The site is broken into these sections for easy navigation: Parents, Educators, Law Enforcement, Women’s Issues, and Kids, Tweens and Teens.