In cyberspace, no one can hear your kid scream
“Mummy,” my daughter said recently, in much the tone of Violet Beauregarde, the grasping spoilt brat in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. “I want a blog.”
I thought she said she wanted a dog – an oft-repeated plea that’s resulted in many weekends babysitting puppies from our local pet shop. But, no, she wanted a blog. “Why?” I asked. “What would you write about?”
She did that withering tongue-click thing that’s become so prevalent among seven-year-olds, it has me wondering if a little Botox in the soft palate might help.
“I’d write about China (she’s studying it at school) and things I like. And I’d take a video of me singing ‘Here Comes the Sun’, so when I’m asleep, you can click on my blog and still hear me singing your favourite song.”
Bless. It used to be my favourite.
So who, I ask, will read her blog? “Oh, my friends and the other twines.” Twines? Turns out she means tweens and, according to her, that’s any kid older than five.
At first glance, I have several problems with a seven-year-old having a blog. How can she have one when I haven’t started one yet? (I have great reservations about adding to the chronic verbal incontinence already spewed across the web.)
And what about that quaint little idiom about children being seen but not heard? I don’t hold much stock in such Victorian values, but do I want her adding her voice to the digital cacophony? Shouldn’t she be curled up in a chair in a daisy-sprigged petticoat reading Snugglepot and Cuddlepie with her needlepoint beside her?
Finally, is blogging more special because more people can share it, or are we adopting a narcissistic ‘look at me’ attitude towards utterances that were once contained in conventional conversations?
After much thought and a little research – ironically, on other people’s blogs – I’ve decided that children blogging is a terrific idea. (Although, I reserve the right to change my mind in 10 years’ time, should posts about ‘things I like’ start to include vodka snorting.)
Kids love an audience. Whether they’re cartwheeling or writing, if someone notices, they’ll do it again. And again.
Last year, a school in the UK started conducting lessons via a blog when it was forced to close due to heavy snowfalls. What started as simple maths lessons where kids had to do things such as measure the depth of the snow ended with them writing 5000-word articles. When the national writing tests rolled around, the number of 11-year-olds with an above-average score soared.
Blogging is like putting your hand up in class and always being chosen. It’s Zuckerberg meets show-and-tell. Writing solely for your teacher is one thing, but blogging with classmates is a pretty cool way to learn to respect others’ opinions. And, unlike their luddite parents, they’ll have technological literacy embedded in them without realising.
Of course, I’m not suggesting they wander alone in cyberspace. Access to their sites must be restricted, password protected and vigilantly monitored. Parents (and teachers) need to teach appropriate ways to interact online, but surely that’s as vital in the modern world as learning fractions and road safety.
Yes, I’d love my daughter to be losing herself in my vintage Enid Blytons. But for now, she’s beguiled by The Enchanted Web.
Catch Angela Mollard on Weekend Today, Sundays at 7am on the Nine Network
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