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    Too Much Screen Time? Introduce Your Kid To Blogging!

    There were portions of my childhood where all I would want to do was read. Now, that’s by no means the worst activity (I hear some other parents — myself included — muttering “oh brother…”). But as with all things — ahem, Fortnite — a little moderation goes a long way.

    At the time I was working through the Redwall series and the Hobbit. I loved the maps and the descriptions of all the foods the characters would make in Redwall. At that age, I liked poring over books so I could act out what was going on. I would take scenes from the Hobbit and build them with Legos, or draw maps from Redwall and play with them in the yard.

    My mother, sensing a theme, ran with it. And helped me to up my media creation game. I remember some of what I made to this day, and to me, it just felt like play. I made a cookbook of Redwall recipes and had it bound up (I think at a local Office Max).

    I loved to draw maps and survey the area. So my mom tasked me creating a neighborhood “newspaper.” The main articles were about what different neighborhood pets were doing, and charts counting the types of cars by block (hey, I was 9 or 10). I would then go door-to-door in the neighborhood and aging neighbors would take pity on my “newspaper” giving me a quarter or fifty cents each for a weekly copy.

    Today, as I work in online media, I think back on these experiences with fondness. And likely with an extra bit of confidence. They were identified, they let me know I could “make” something like the objects I enjoyed spending time with the most.

    I’ve tried to carry on this tradition a bit with my own kids. It’s easier than ever to set up a blog for your kids (they’ll likely know how to post and use the content management system within a few minutes).

    Now there are a few choices as to how you set up a blog for your kids. And a few tradeoffs. So that’s what I’m going to share here.

     

    What Sort of Blog Should I Set Up For My Kid?

    Perhaps the easiest “out-of-the-box” solution to setting up a blog is setting up a WordPress blog. WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that lets you log in and share posts. At its simplest, it’s not that much different from social media. At its most advanced, well, 30% of the top 10,000 sites use WordPress. So you can pretty much make it into whatever you wish.

    If you’re going to jump into utilizing WordPress, you’ll need to know some of the following terms.

    • WordPress is a content management system. It lets you save and post photos, videos, other media, and posts. It comes with functionality including comments, the ability to create landing pages, and a large number of customization options. It’s acquired at WordPress.com or by downloading the open source version (more on these options later). 
    • Hosting is required so that other people can see your web page. The two main options for WordPress blogs are to get a domain and hosting together through WordPress.com or to go with a more customizable option through managed WordPress hosting. 
    • Themes are installed into your WordPress instance. There are thousands of free (and likely more paid) themes out there. They provide a basic visual “feel” to a site and enhance functionality. See some of the huge arrays of themes available here. 
    • Plugins enhance the functionality of WordPress. They’re easy to install, and if you find yourself wanting a feature on WordPress, there’s likely already a plugin made for this purpose. Want a contact form, or a gallery of images, or a chatbot? Plugins do that.

    Now you can just “jump in” and let your kid play around with WordPress some. A recent update called the “Gutenberg editor” led to a much richer experience for creating multimedia content and customizing the visual look of posts.

    Your main choice, if you want to jump in quickly, will be between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Many WordPress beginners don’t fully understand the difference and end up buying duplicate services because they aren’t what they think they are.

    • WordPress.com offers both a domain and hosting. You can get a free account that provides you with a subdomain. Something like YourSite.Wordpress.com. There are also paid versions of WordPress.com that is more customizable. Generally, though, WordPress.com sites are less customizable. They take care of many of the options and provide a stable experience. But if you or your kid really want to go “all out,” you’ll likely want to go with the following option. 
    • WordPress.org is the parent company that owns WordPress.com. WordPress.org provides access to the open source WordPress content management system. With this option, you can find your own hosting options and buy your own domain. You can then customize WordPress to your heart’s content, bringing on or making your own plugins and themes. If your child has a particularly audacious idea for their blog, you may want to try this option. There are tons of tutorials for customizing sites, even for beginners. And your kids will gain more experience with problem-solving and utilizing technology this way.

    Either way, you can have a WordPress site up for less than $50. That’s the cost of a babysitter for a night. Even if your kid just plays with their site on and off for a month, that’s a win that they may very well remember for a long time.

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