Blogging Children

Recently, a friend in the US posed the question about how to set up a blog for her ten-year-old daughter who very desperately wanted to start one. That directed my interest to child bloggers.

Born in the late 90s or the 2000s, Child bloggers are ‘cyberkids’ (Holloway & Valentine, 2003) and belong to the ‘digital natives’: “Digital natives live much of their lives online, without distinguishing between the online and the offline. Instead of thinking of their digital identity and their real-space identity as separate things, they just have an identity (with representations in two, or three, or more different spaces),” (Palfrey 2008:4). In the United States, for example, special blogging platforms for children age 9-17 are provided (e.g. kidzworld), as some platforms have age restrictions for children who are younger than thirteen. However, that does not hinder adults (or children) to start blogs on other platforms. One famous and influential child blogger for instance is Martha Payne who at the age of 9 started her blog Neverseconds, reporting about her school lunch in the UK (see also the NYT article “Girl-9-gives school lunch failing grade”). Despite having nothing to do with China, her blog is too amazing to not being mentioned. Neverseconds, in addition to presenting us with a bottom-up view of Martha’s gruesome UK school meals, also shows that child bloggers, like adults, can be very critical about their daily life situation. Whether the idea to blog derived from her parents or herself, she nevertheless at least provides her own pictures from her school lunch. Her blogs furthermore invited great numbers of comments and inspired similar actions by other children.

Studies of children’s weblogs are scarce, although blogging children are not at all – many children blog. Writing blogs are thought to be educative, they are studied within the sphere of consumer culture, and they are considered within the risk-paradigm (in terms of spending too much time behind the computer, cyberbullying etc.), to name the most common approaches of scholars and parents.

Some Chinese children are bloggers, too. One blogging platform for adults, sina, also provides for child bloggers at baby.sina and features several hundreds of child blogs (they do not include blogs about babies, which is another blogging genre). Randomly glancing over those blogs alone raises numerous questions and offers plenty of research possibilities. Several blogs are written by mothers. For example, 畅享生活 Changxiang’s Life (or ‘joyful and free life’) is written by ‘Little Chang’s mother’. However, many entries are written at least in the style of the daughter, and some take the form of school-essays, for example on 4 October 2010, when she was about 9 or 10 years old she writes about an excursion to the train station with her mother. The blog contains texts and photographs – a recent picture shows Changxiang and her giant stuffed bear, but mostly pictures about children’s (educational) books and dishes and traditional-style paintings by Changxiang and occasional pictures from sightseeing tours accompany the blog entries. The entries are about food, festivals and the like, and the majority deals with health and educational issues. What might be especially worth mentioning is that Changxiang has 37,290 followers and her blog has been visited 20,138,539 times. She (the mother) is blogging since 2006 already. While people reading (or at least clicking on) the entries are often in the 5-digit numbers, comments by others are usually in the 2-digit numbers.

Commenting, however, does not appear to be specifically significant for the motivation to blog or not to blog. The blog ‘Sea Breeze’ for instance by ‘Beloved Son’ has 0 followers, has been accessed 2,898 times, but continues anyway – albeit irregular – since 2008 until now.
Another interesting blog is that of ‘Darling Dinosaur’, who blogs since 2008. I think this blog mainly caught my attention because of it’s name, as I got to listen to many lectures about dinosaurs by kindergarten and elementary school kids all over the planet… Also, when I opened the blog yesterday I saw a picture of darling Dinosaur sweeping the floor with the capture “I am a young labor expert”. Aonther picture shows him in 2010 with the capture ‘have you planted a tree this year already?’ Darling Dinosaur has 11,394 followers, more than 100,000 views and hardly any comments. Still, his blog exists since 2008. He posts pictures of dinosaurs but also of (European) soccer. His blog appears to me more genuinely about his own interests, suggesting that he has some more freedom about the content than Changxiang might have.

The blogs are all tagged with a “badge”, probably grading the safety or supervision of each blog – but that is something I will go into another time, considering safety of cyberkids. It would be very interesting to analyse the textual and picture content of many of those blogs, as I believe they allow interesting glimpses into urban middle class family life – whether ideal or relatively raw glimpses. Also a global comparison about child bloggers, blogging platforms, safety issues, parental interaction etc would turn out fascinating results concerning the ‘cybcerkids’. Many pictures suggest a life of offline enculturation, and it will be interesting to compare this with representation of less-privileged or even marginalized children.

Holloway, S. & Valentine, G. 2003. Cyberkids. Chidlren in the information age. London&New York: RoutledgeFalmer.
Palfrey, J. 2008. Born digital. Understanding the first generation of digital natives. New York: Basic Books.

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