Increasingly more aspects of children’s lives are taken over by technology and quality time with the family decreases. According to a Telegraph article from September 2017, 32% of 8 to 11 year old’s have a smartphone and 21% of 12 to 15 year old’s play games with people they have never met. So, the question is: how can parents educate children today to become the responsible digital citizens of tomorrow? And furthermore, how can families still come together in a meaningful way while using digital media?
Bring your family’s offline world online
A qualitative study commissioned by the European Union in 2015 observed 70 families in seven European countries with children under the age of eight and found that “digital activities support their [children’s] “offline” life interests and use them as an enlargement of those activities”. The study also showed that “children learn [the use of digital media] from observation” (Chaudron et al., 2015).
Many parents are concerned that using technical devices at home for a longer period can be harmful to their children and therefore rather restrict their use. If, however , digital media are used to extend their children’s interests in the real world, couldn’t they offer benefits such as encouraging creativity, imagination, communication skills and knowledge acquisition?
Say the family would get together maybe once or twice a week to build a blog, a type of online journal with informal and diary-style regular text entries on a website on the world wide web. Let’s look at all the fun you as a family (with older children able to read and write) could have with each other while “working” on your project:
Have a family panel discussion about your blog framework
Before you’d get started, you’d have to brainstorm ideas and topics you’d like to cover. Blogs can be about ANYTHING and there isn’t one right or wrong way of running one. They are very individual, which is why they’re a great tool to enhance creativity and imagination.
Just check out some family blogs online and you’ll get an idea of how different and personal they can be: https://thefamilydinnerproject.org/blogs/family-blog/
Here dinner time stories are published to discuss topics that are being discussed at dinner tables all over the world. Simple and yet informative and insightful as well as entertaining.
Browse through a few to get some inspiration, but try to work out what matters most to you as a family – Your hobbies? Your lifestyle? Travel? Brainstorm your top 3 topic areas and then think about which of them would be the most fun, simple and useful to write and communicate about.
Set up your blog together
It’s then time to get started and if you are worried that you’re not nerdy enough, don’t worry! Setting up a blog isn’t rocket science and the whole family can learn it together to gain technological and digital skills. Use my 7 step guide to building my education blog as a reference to help you: https://www.education.clickdo.co.uk/education-blogger/
Fabulous, you’re now ready to kickstart your family blogging journey!
Launch your blog together
At this stage, you’re brainstorming your first article. You will have chosen a theme for your blog and maybe added photos relevant to your topic/area of interest. Your domain name and blog name will reflect what the readers can expect when they come to your website.
As in the above example, the blog simply posts and shares family dinner stories. These might be related to current affairs or news and developments. What’s happening right now in the field you’re covering? What can you as a family contribute? As a blog is like a diary, it might be useful to add photos or videos of something you’ve been involved with or you have information about.
Let’s say you are on a quest to save the planet by setting a good example with your recycling at home. Showcase this on your blog and educate your community this way, inspire them and offer advice or tips.
You could do this together or each family member could be responsible for different aspects like one for reducing plastic, one for reducing the water use etc. Everyone makes their contributions, but you as a blog committee discuss, create and publish the content.
Manage and advertise your blog together
Very soon you’ll have published many great articles, but who reads them? Again, you can have a “family meeting” and plan how you will spread the word about your blog. First, think about your close social networks and community – create a nice email newsletter for your blog or post some of your articles on social media. On Facebook you can create a group or page for your blog and invite all your contacts to like and join it. In no time will you have a big following as word about amazing content spreads fast!
The beauty of having a family blog is that
- You come together regularly to work on your project and spend quality time
- You all learn new knowledge and skills together in many different areas such as technology, digital literacy and literacy, marketing, modern communication, graphic design/videography and of course your area of interest that you’re blogging about.
- You help others as a family and give something back to the community
- You go on an adventure together and get to know each other in ways you might not have before
This list could go on and on depending on how you as a family go about handling your blog. And that’s why the blogging family experience is so exciting: it holds many surprises and might even reveal some family mysteries.
Manuela Willbold is an experienced teacher with a love for content writing and blogging. She manages the UK Education Blog and works for a London-based digital marketing agency called ClickDo. Together they’re on a mission to support everyone building their own online presence.