I’ve posted before about the importance of encouraging teenagers to write. This NYT article seems to agree, at least when it comes to blogging. I’ll admit, I came late to the blogging party. When blogging started I was already writing screenplays and novels and felt no strong need for an outlet or forum for my personal thoughts. I never liked writing about myself. I’m boring, I thought, who would want to read that?
Perhaps I missed the point. Perhaps I should have realized that blogging is for ME. The study cited in the NYT certainly seems to suggest that. The teens involved in this study report genuine getting comfort and relief from stress and depression as a result of not only putting their thoughts on a blog, but also getting supportive comments from readers.
Creative or outside-the-box projects can also help teens work out how they feel about certain things. Consider this video about “slut-shaming” from a 13 year old YouTuber. Many teens are asked to write straight forward five paragraph essays about such topics. Some find it easy – I did – but for others they struggle so much with the form that the whole purpose of the assignment is lost. They don’t learn about the assigned topic, be it bullying, racism, the environment or the French Revolution. All they learn is how inadequate they are.
I advocate giving students a wider choice of how they explore assigned topics, including creative expression such as poetry, short stories, music, video or visual art. Imagine a history class where the students made 18th C costumes, performed skits, sang songs, rapped, showed animated videos and read poetry and stories about the French Revolution! I also advocate providing opportunities for kids to riff about unassigned topics in whatever creative way appeals to them.
Finally, I think that given how important the online world is, students should be given every opportunity and encouragement to understand its many benefits and risks. Blogging is part of this. Kids Need Blogs!