Oct 31 2006

8 Safety Tips To Read Before Your Students Create A Blog

While blogging is taking off in schools, be sure to consider these online safety tips before launching a blog project.

Blogging, or Web-logging, is a simple way to publish to the Internet. It can help create an audience for your students, encouraging them to write more and to use correct spelling, grammar and punctuation.

Blogging can have numerous educational uses, including classroom-based projects, such as journaling or creating e-portfolios, as well as producing schoolwide or district Web pages. Most students enjoy going online and posting their work on the Internet, and it motivates them to be better writers.

Nevertheless, teachers need to be aware of the security and privacy issues that coexist with publishing content on the Web, especially when working with elementary school children. It’s critical to have the security necessary to protect children from outside viewers and writers. Here are some online safety tips to consider:

Check laws, such as the Children’s Internet Protection Act and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, when posting students’ work and photos on the Internet. Never post pictures of students or identify them by name without parental permission.

Follow your school district’s acceptable-use policies. If such a policy doesn’t exist, develop one.

Create a blogger’s contract that spells out student responsibilities and the importance of practicing online safety habits. (See Report Card on page 5 for details.)

Ensure that you’ve got signed permission forms from parents for their children to participate.

Avoid blogging sites and software that are open to anyone because your students will be corresponding with unknown people.

Protect your students’ identities. Don’t allow students to use their first and last names, and consider creating screen names for them.

Monitor your students’ postings and any postings that come from outside the school. Never allow any posting to go online without your approval.

Don’t publish links to outside Web sites on your students’ blog pages unless the links are with well-established organizations.

Blogging can be a great way to motivate your students to write more, but you should never compromise on safety.

Jeanne Kimball is technology coordinator at Oxford Central School in Oxford, N.J., which began blogging last year for a Read Across America project.