Monday, October 25, 2004

Blogging for kids under 13

Update Feb 2010: This blog post is really out of date and I have closed off the comments because this is not a topic I am following. I recommend folks check out the same question on Answers.com | WikiAnswers: Are there blog sites for kids under 13? where anyone can add information and keep it up-to-date. Cheers, Scott

Original Post

One of the very cool projects supported by the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation is SparkTop.org, a website for kids with learning and attention problems. One of the goals, to reduce the isolation this group of kids suffers by connecting them with kids going through similar problems. The rub is that the site is aimed at kids 8-12 making privacy and safety a constant concern.

I don't get to work directly on this uber cool site, but I get to be blessed with great conversations with the team about kids socializing online. Today, a break room chat came around the topic of kids, blogs and journals. We wondered if kids who are coming to SparkTop.org would also blog. Then we immediately wondered if kids under 13 would be able to find a place to blog.

So I made a little survey of under 13 policies at blogging/journaling sites. My list of sites is by no means exhaustive, but I found enough variation that it seems worth posting. I was looking mainly for free services that allowed public viewing of entries. Only when I dug into the policies did I realize that I needed to call out the country where the domain is registered since US sites may fall under COPPA rules.

Xanga
www.xanga.com
Domain registered in: US
Policy: under 13 not allowed to register
Policy Posted: At registration and in Terms of Service

If you enter an age under 13, they actually stop you from registering:

"Sorry, Xanga is intended for people who are at least 13 years old

Children under 13 are not permitted to join or participate in the Xanga Community. Sorry for any inconvenience... please feel free to come back on your thirteenth birthday :-)"

Live Journal
www.livejournal.com
Domain registered in: US
Policy: under 13 not allowed to register
Policy Posted: At registration and in Terms of Service

"LiveJournal currently has a four-tier account structure. All accounts are available in accordance with local law including the Children's Online Protection Privacy Act (COPPA) which restricts children under the age of 13 from registering."

Journal Space
www.journalspace.com
Domain registered in: US
Policy: Site "not intended" for children under 13
Policy Posted: Terms of Service

"This site is not intended for children under the age of 13." No means of enforcement is obvious.

Blogger
www.blogger.com
Domain registered in: US
Policy: under 13 not allowed to register
Policy Posted: Terms of Service

Updated 06/26/07: "You must be at least thirteen (13) years of age to use the Service." I have not checked if this is enforced, yet.

Diaryland
www.diaryland.com
Domain registered in: US
Policy: Not apparent
Policy Posted: No mention of an age policy found

Registration asks for name, location and year of birth, but it gave no notice to me when I signed up as a 10-year-old. I could not find anything in the terms of service or privacy policy about age restrictions.

Diary-x
www.diary-x.com
Domain registered in: US (but through a European domain registrar)
Policy: Not apparent
Policy Posted: No mention of an age policy found

Registration required email and first name, but birthdate was optional. When I entered a date that put me at 10 yo, I got no special notice. I could not find anything in the terms of service or privacy policy about age restrictions.

Upsaid
www.upsaid.com
Domain registered in: Belgium
Policy: Not apparent
Policy Posted: No mention of an age policy found

No mention of age in the Terms or Privacy Policy. It does ask for age, but I did not get any notice when I signed up as a 10 yr old.

Blog-City
www.blog-city.com
Domain registered in: UK
Policy: Under 12 need parental/guardian permission
Policy Posted: Terms of Service

Registration required an email address, but nothing else. The service is based in the UK and, as such, is not held to COPPA. However, this line is in their Terms, "Members under the age of 12 years old must have permission from their parent or guardian before agreeing to these terms and conditions." though no means of enforcement is obvious.


It's important to point out that just because a site does not have a policy regarding children under 13 that it is not compliant with COPPA--see "How to Comply With The Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule". COPPA is concerned mainly with a business collecting personally identifiable information from children and not as much what happens if a child reveals such information as part of their journaling. The only conclusion that I am willing to draw based on what I found is that children under 13 can indeed find places to publicly post journal entries.

I should add that back in February 2004, Ross Mayfield, CEO of SocialText discussed kids and blogging, with mentions of Foe Romeo's Etech talk, Oracle's Think.com and his own 7yo daughter's enthusiasm for her (private) blog.

I need to see how much our kids team knows about Think.com which provides website, email, social networking and group collaboration tools and hosted space for free to primary and secondary schools with the aim of connecting students and classes across the country and the globe.

17 comments:

  1. Thanks for the overview. I'm reminded of a recent YPulse post about a UK teen site offering blogs for its readers. Interesting stat in here that: "56 per cent of blogs are run by females, and that teenagers produce more than 50 per cent of all blogs." So I wonder where the under 13's fall in to that stat?

    http://www.journalism.co.uk/news/story1085.shtml

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  2. Thanks for the link, it looks like Bliss blogs are being hosted by TheZpace (www.thezpace.com) which is a UK site and doesn't require an age check. Additionally, they offer 30 Days free and then three service levels starting at £3 per month.

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  3. There's a bunch of cool info in that UK article, including references to David Huffaker, who has done some academic work on the use of blogging to promote literacy among school-aged kids http://www.eyec.com/papers.cfm

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  4. this is cool!r u gonna find more blogging sites 4 under 13?that'd b kewl.

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  5. hi i think this little story was funny well see yu!

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  6. on blogger if you read the terms and services it says that you cant make one if you're under 13. blogger just doesn't have any restrictions

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  7. Thanks, anonymous! I've updated the entry.

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  8. I'm an elementary school teacher and I'm trying to work with a child with serious attention issues. He really wants to do a blog, which is a first for someone who doesn't like to write, but we can't find anywhere that the school feels comfortable sanctioning.

    Anyone out there want to start a new service?

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  9. HMcDougal,
    Try edublogs.org - a blog site especially for teachers and students. Lots of tips for teachers, too. I've got a book coming out in Feb. 2009 (published by Teacher Created Resources) on using blogs with kids.

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  10. Thanks for offering that tip, otter! I like that edublogs.com offers nice how-tos on using their service.

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  11. I am just looking for a blog service that will NOT have any links to other blogs and have no links that I have not posted. This is for our kids to read and make comments on entries about a trip I will be making - for school use - please send me suggestions if you have any. Thanks -

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  12. Amy, are your concerns keepinng the blog private and limiting access to just your kids? If so, I found a video that shows you how to set a blog to be private and allow only who you want in to see your blog (though I think they have to sign up for blogger).

    How do I control who can view my blog?

    If you don't want links that go from your blog to other blogs, I thought there used to be a way to remove the top bar for a fee, but I can't seem to find it now.

    If the privacy issue doesn't help. Let me know and I will see if my friends can help you find what you need.

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  13. You should check out wordpress too. It seems pretty safe.

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  14. My problem with most of the blogging sites out there is that, for each and every one that I can find, there is no way to have top-level admin belonging to the parent, but still allow a lower-level admin that enables the child to change the look/feel of the blog (template, etc.) or otherwise do anything more than post, without also allowing them to completely admin the site. I want my child to be able to post a blog - she's 12 and has vast interest in it - but I want to have control over top-level things like who is notified when a comment is made, comment moderation, e-mail links, etc. I can't find a single service that provides this model. If you want the child to be able to 'make the blog their own,' visually, you have to give them top-level admin control, which isn't safe, IMHO.

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  15. That's a fantastic point, Anonymous. Many group blogging tools do not allow for supervised control over the blog. However, since I originally wrote this, there have been some blogging services for classroom teachers which seems to fit a similar goal as you: the child has a great deal of control over their own blog, but there is a level of supervision and control above that. You might find this works for you as a classroom of one.

    Have you checked out Edublogs yet? http://edublogs.org

    I'd love to hear back from you so please come back and post or drop me a direct email at scott||at||phoom||dot||com

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  16. I Have A Problem, My Child loves to type and she's 9 and a half. She's gone on most of those normal sites for children her age (Such as Club Penguin) But wants to type more. She likes to talk about herself,Her dislikes and likes. Maybe A chat room would help her? Email? I'm not sure. She has a mobile and a phone. Would those be signs of her growing up now? And should I let her go on Chat rooms. I'm no sure. Please help and comment on this website. I will cheek back often. Others may help me too. Thank You.

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  17. Try out Edublogs. http://edublogs.org/

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