Blogs Can Both Help and Hurt Kids

Posted on October 3, 2005

On the plus side, blogs are beneficial as a learning tool. Blogs can encourage writing, journalism and improve communication skills. A recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer explains some ways blogging can be used in classroom settings.
When it works well as an educational tool, blogging involves students in content, critical reading, and thoughtful, reflective writing.

David Warlick, educational technology consultant, author and director of the Landmark Project, sees blogs as strategies for encouraging writing. When blogs are effective, students write for an audience and receive authentic response.

Warlick notes that blog writing might occasionally warrant a more casual approach. Traditional writing assignments are "for teacher's eyes only. We are teaching rules and syntax and students have to follow rules. Blogging is much more about communication and kids are all about communication."
The article also includes links to several school and teachers using blogs as well as resources that contain lists of article and resources about using blogs and wikis in education.

On the negative side, a few kids are also using blogs to tease or ridicule others -- a cruel usage of blogs known as cyberbullying. A recent Times Online article explained how cyberbullies spread fear.
Researchers who have studied teenage internet use have discovered websites where children vote for the ugliest, most unpopular or fattest girl in their school. "As teenagers increasingly turn to blogs, some of these diaries have become a hotbed of cruelties," Aftab added.

On one popular website, a 17-year-old boy invited his friends to "take a moment and really think about who you hate in our school, then choose the one that you have the most disdain for and write it here for all to see". His message drew 240 replies and featured everyone from "that stupid blind girl" to a school dinner lady.
Several resources have been set up to help parents and kids better understand cyberbullying and web technologies. A couple of these include Wired Safety and Stop Cyberbullying.