How would digital literacy and behavior improve if more families saw blogging as a way to communicate, share, and connect with extended family members, as well as teach children, parents, and grandparents the basics about global communication? Would they be thrilled that their younger family members had a big head start developing digital citizenship skills? Would grandparents, motivated by extra connections with their grandchildren, develop new confidence in their technology skills? Would parents be delighted at all of the writing taking place and take pride as they watched children, as well as grandparents, become more savvy digital citizens?
Blogging is safe and easily managed. While we’ve all heard the scary stories, such as people going online and writing mean comments or nasty rumors that go public or even viral — in truth just about all blogging is safe and fun. Blogging enables people to write, revise, write more, and publish for a community of readers.
Imagine, for a moment, if a family with two children, age five and seven, along with a bunch of relatives, starts a blog.
- Family members, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins write, post, and comment. Parents are editors and managers, at least at the beginning, modeling and demonstrating how to use technology (social media) appropriately. Gradually family members share responsibilities.
- Grandchildren write for their grandparents, and the seniors, eager to respond, ask their grandkids for helpful tips.
- The family keeps their blog private. It’s easy and free for up to 25 participants at a site like WordPress. If the number goes higher, the family can pay one minimal fee each year to include more people but keep the blog private.
- At first everyone is learning, and of course, a few glitches. The kids seem to learn fastest and are tasked with troubleshooting, but not the blog administration. Everyone learns how post digital images and small videos, and in the process an online discussion informally focuses on image evaluation and personal image privacy.
- On any given day several people post and several people comment. Grandparents share their activities and travels, kids share their schools, sports, and other activities, and parents, too, tell about what is happening in their lives and post the videos from school events and assemblies. Everyone enjoys the informal interaction, writing, and reading. All family members like to comment, and that inspires more writing.
- The children’s posts sometimes need editing. No one worries about the littlest ones because they are writing and that’s cool. As writers progress, they learn how to edit, spell check, and even add a few HTML commands. Everyone comments on everyone else’s posts. Grandparents enjoy explaining how grammar rules have changed and lots and lots of family members are written down and shared.
- Each family member is an editor, and everyone welcomes the feedbacks. This inspires more writing.
- Some problems occur but bloggers learn from their mistakes. Adults handle these issues tactfully, privately, and within the family, so thoughtful family conversations abound. A grandfather comments about a child’s sarcastic comment about the elderly – was it really meant that way? A child learns to think before posting to avoid hurting the feelings of a family member who isn’t that good at sports. A parent points out that a comment that feels fine face-to-face feels can hurt in print. Not a single error becomes public, so no one is humiliated by an error.
Family members write, edit, publish, talk, and learn.By fourth or fifth grade, when digital demands outside the family grow more intense, children have extensive experience interacting with multi-media and social media. They know what works and what doesn’t, what helps, and what hurts. Their grandparents have played a substantial role.
A dream, maybe… but every family should have a blog.
To learn more about family media literacy read, Family Media Literacy – A Necessary Literacy for the Digital Age, written by Gloria DeGaetano and posted on the Literacy News blog.