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Is your kid ready to blog?

Parents have recently been sending me online questions about whether it is good and safe for their child to have an online blog. Well let me log in with some information on kids and blogs.

"Blog," for those who may need a refresher, is short for "web log", an online journal or diary with varying degrees of privacy depending on the blogging service. A new blog is created every 5.8 seconds and it is estimated that there are more than 30 million currently in existence. The biggest concern about school-age children and pre-teens blogging is internet safety. Yet blogging can potentially improve your child's writing, communication, social, and even internet and computer skills. It can also teach them the importance of responsibility for internet safety.

So if you want your child to share their thoughts on line via a blog, here are some suggestions: First make sure rules are established before your child gets started:

The first rule is that your child should not use their full name, address, school name, personal photos, etc, online so they cannot be personally identified.

The blog should be password protected so that only people your child knows can view it.

Screen the content before it goes up online and discuss with your child why something may not be suitable to post.

Be sure you also have access to this blog on a regular basis so you are aware of the responses coming in just as much as what is going out.

My best suggestion is to make your child's blog a shared experience for the family rather than leave your child to blog on their own. Keeping open lines of communication with your child and being sure you are monitoring their online activity is the best way to make blogging a safe and fun activity.

Hopefully tips will this will be saved in your memory bank, and that of your child, if and when they want to start their own online blog.

Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch "First with Kids" weekly on WOKO 98.9 FM and WCAX-TV Channel 3. Visit the First with Kids archives at www.vermontchildrens.org.

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