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Guidelines for Teen Pro Bloggers

I’ve had a growing number of emails from teenagers in the last couple of months – all asking about how they can get into blogging for an income.

In a general sense I think blogging can be brilliant for teens (and even children) for a number of reasons as I’ll explain below, I also recommend to those that email me that they should proceed with a little caution as well.

Blogging is something that all ages can engage in (young and old). Many teens do it on a personal level (not for profit) and increasingly schools are using blogs in their curriculums as part of their assessment methods. Recent studies showed that 1 in 5 teens had blogs – whether you think it’s a good idea or not for teens (and some people do argue strongly against it) the fact is that they are doing it and perhaps rather than fighting against we should attempt to build awareness about how they can do it more safely and responsibly.

Teen ProBloggers
Over the last year I’ve seen a number of teenagers (and even one or two younger than that) doing blogging with a more professional intent.

There are some really great things about this. Here are a couple that come to mind:

PocketmoneyPocket Money (and more) – when I was 16 I worked in a supermarket stacking shelves (I referred to myself as a ‘shelf technician’). While it was nice to have some extra money in my pocket I would have loved to earn the same sort of money while surfing the web (if there had been a ‘web’ back then – gee I’m old). I know of a few teens who are making pocket money levels of income from blogging and think this will become more common. Of course just because you’re young doesn’t mean you can only earn small amounts of money from blogging. The cool thing about the web is that it has the ability to even things out for people on many fronts including that of age. I know of a couple of teens who actually make VERY good money from blogging. It’s taken them time to build up – but they’ll graduate high school with money to go to college (and more) from their micro businesses.

Napoleon-Dynamite-1Skills – I love how Napoleon Dynamite (classic movie) was always on about ‘skills’. One of the best things about blogging for an income (and blogging in general) is that it helps the blogger develop an array of skills that can be applied in many areas of their life. While Napoleon was into bow hunting, computer hacking and nun-chucking skills etc I think young people can learn a lot from blogging in a variety of areas including:

  • Technical – Coding skills, web design skills, graphic design skills etc
  • Communication – Writing skills, public speaking skills (if you get into podcasting)
  • Business – Accounting skills, Marketing skills, PR skills
  • Relational – Networking skills

The list could probably go on.

Proceed with Caution – While blogging for an income can obviously be a good thing for teens for some of the above reasons the responsible (almost) parent in me wants to also stress that teens need to be a little careful with it also. I’m not wanting to be a downer here but while the web can be a fun place that is full of opportunity it’s worth remembering that as with any business there are risks and responsibilities that people need to manage. Here’s a few things to consider:

  • Security – I’m sure most teens get lectured about this from teachers/parents etc – but the web is a place to be careful so you don’t want to be revealing too much about yourself personally on it. Even as an adult I’m really careful about revealing too many personal details.
  • Legal Implications – Every Business has to be aware of the laws around it – blogging is no different. Communicating in a public setting means you have to be careful about what you say about others (laws of defamation and privacy etc) and the content you have (copyright etc). Also depending upon where you live if you’re earning money from any source you need to think about tax etc. I would strongly recommend that any teen getting into blogging has a parent or guardian help them think through this type of stuff. While there are real opportunities you need to be careful. Blogging could give you a real head start in some of the ways mentioned above, but if you don’t do it legally it could put you behind others too! One quick anecdote – I’ve had content stolen from one of my blogs recently – it turned out to be a 16 year old blogging for money who didn’t understand copyright – luckily for him I’m not the suing type and was willing to talk him through it.
  • Addiction – that might be a little too strong a word – but blogging can become something of an addiction for some. Perhaps a more helpful word would be ‘distraction’. Teen bloggers (and bloggers of all ages) need to keep balance in their lives. Homework, social life, family time, exercise etc all can suffer if a blogger becomes obsessed.
  • A Blog is not Just for Christmas – The annual campaign has started to find lost dogs homes after many families who got dogs for Christmas realize the effort that it takes to keep them have abandoned them. Blogs are not just a short term thing either. For one it takes a long time to build one up to an income earning level – but secondly bloggers need to remember that what you write on your blog will be available for people to read online for a lifetime. There are implications of this. Even if you delete your blog there are cached copies of it in web archives that people can find and use against you later on. Things you write in anger or gossip today can come back to haunt you later in your life. Many Teen blogs are renowned for their edginess – what worries me about this are the long term implications of blogging for teens.
  • Over 18 Requirements of some Ad Networks – Ad networks like AdSense (and Most others that I can think of) require that their publishers be over 18. This means you either have to lie about your age (I’d not recommend this) or that you get a guardian to sign up for you. I’d recommend the second of these two routes.

As a result of this – I’d strongly recommend that anyone under 18 who wants to get into blogging consider doing so with a supervisor/guardian watching over what they do. This is not to stop you having fun – but it’s more about keeping you safe and helping you to develop a business that is legal and responsible. I’d also recommend that teen bloggers (and ALL bloggers) consider developing boundaries about what they will and won’t blog about.

I’ve seen a number of stories in the past 12 months about teen bloggers who’ve gotten in real trouble from blogging about anything and everything. This has lead to stalking, suspensions and expulsions from schools, broken relationships with family and friends etc. Teens should enjoy blogs and use them (even to make money) if they wish – but keep in side that they are not just a toy and have some serious implications.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Victor says:

    Good points, and yes, I would strongly agree that parents should keep an eye on their teens’ internet activity. We just don’t live in a world that’s secure anymore. Hell, my parents should probably continue watching me so I do not goof too bad.. ;)

    I’ll atest to what anyone can learn by blogging. In fact, if you wanted to really immerse yourself in a subject, all you need to do is find some topic that you want to be profficient in, find motiviation, and create a blog. I’ve done this in regards to writing, and I think I have learned more than would be possible any other way.

    Vic

  2. Christian says:

    Nice one, Darren.
    I’am 21 years old and still on my way getting a problogger. Your points are accurate but i’ve a last one for non english bloggers (i’am from germany): You can train your english skills – let me explain: I read your blog (and some other english speaking blogs) every day, so this is an extra english lesson for me. Last week i’ve decided to start a bilungual blog so i can grow my writing experience.

  3. mojotek says:

    Lot’s of useful info here, but I think the most important was your coverage of ‘Addiction’. It’s quite easy to let something like blogging consume your time entirely, not unlike MMORPG addiction that can actually cause serious problems in your social life and well being.

    Balance throughout your life is the key.

  4. Patrick says:

    I like the part on addiction cos you really need to balance your life. For me, my 2 addictions are gaming and blogging but without neglecting my studies, family and friends.

  5. A.H says:

    I’m 16 years old, and i’m signed up via my dad..

    I’ve started on June, with a simple wordpress graphic designs blog, and implemented adsense two weeks after i got my paid hosting.

    Today i own 3 blogs, 2 of them are in English, and one is gradually moving up, so now i’m purchasing a domain name for it.

    I started the mentioned blog as a personal blog, but quickly realised my posts about forum and community building were attracting visitors and readership, so i began expanding.

    Today, and after about 6 months of free-style blogging, i make some money, and most importantly i enjoy blogging in my semi-personal: Me, My Coke & I ( http://me.heatmax.illusionfxnet.com/ ).

    2006 is supposed to be the year when i become a semi-pro-blogger, and no, i don’t think i’m overly addicted with blogging, i just think it’s my future part-time job, and i’m working on it, while enjoying it right now =)

    Thanks for your help Darren,
    A.H

  6. Blog Network says:

    all are very good points
    i’m also addicted of blogging and now after reading your addiction point.
    I realized that i should manage my time & i’ll spent good amount of time in other social activities

  7. garrett says:

    I’ve been blogging for the past couple of years now (since I was about 14) and, although I haven’t made a great deal of money from the actual sites, I’ve developed my ability to design blog themes. Now I find that alot of the design work I do is for bloggers and am making literally 40 times the amount my friends are each week, just stacking shelves and flipping burgers.

  8. Excellent post, Darren.

    I agree that teens have a lot to gain from blogging. I think it is a great vehicle to explore interests, develop expertise, and ultimately make some pocket change.

    As you often mention to adult bloggers, the ability to market oneself can be especially valuable for teens. It is a way to show off your expertise to a potential employer, for example.

  9. Carl says:

    Some very good points and it’s nice to see your prospective on things.

    Still, a few things puzzled me, they probably come under the legal implications part of it.

    Taxes

    How much money do you have to be making out of something in the UK for it to be taxable and how would a teenager go about getting it taxed? Would you just stick it onto your parent’s tax return thing or would you go about having yourself classed as a taxable person and filling in the forms and stuff to pay the taxes on it every year?

    I suppose the only way you would need a work permit to blog is if you were blogging for a company and listed as an employee.

  10. Teen blogging is a great idea. When I was 15 I started my own computer news site (what would be called a blog today). It was VERY rewarding, and it beat the heck out of working at mcdonalds. It really comes down to time management and ambition for teens these days. They also need to find something that sets them apart and that INTERESTS them. As far as over-18 ad networks, when I did it, none of these existed so I had to cold-call companies to get their ad bucks. THAT is tough for a teenager, but makes a big impact on their business (they have to overcome these obstacles, so they value their work more).

  11. garrett says:

    @carl: I’m registered for income tax myself as this means that about £5k is exempt from tax. My parents are also entitled to this threshold, however if I added my income onto their return I’d pay tax on the full amount and probably push their income up another band.

  12. Ashley says:

    I’m 15 and posses two blogs and was thinking about trying to gather a bit of money via adsense from them, on my own personal blog http://ashleygrimshaw.blogspot.com i don’t feel this would do much for me as i do not have a very stable visitor set but on my other more random site about a pet rock http://boulderthegreat.blogspot.com I get far more viewers despite the randomness and may want to try any take that futher.

    Anyway I think it’s fine for teens to blog as it does create some usful skills(I need to devolop my html skills) to improve the layout of my sites.

  13. Carl says:

    @ garret

    How did you go about registering for income tax yourself (I’d assume your under 18, you hinted that way but I’m not sure!) and how old do you have to be to do that?

  14. Ben says:

    I’m still in my teenage years but above 18 :)

    The internet is a great way for teenager to earn some pocket money.. or even more. For the more experienced ones it is possible to make a huge living, anywhere from high five figures to low-mid six figures a year.

    For the moment blogging is hot, but you shouldn’t totally focus on blogging. There are other things besides blogging and actually most of Darren’s (and also other people’s) blogs aren’t really blogs but some sort of news sites.

    Another VERY important thing for people that want to earn money on the internet is that fraud can not be tolerated. It is possible to gain a few quick dollars with click fraud but it WILL get you banned.

  15. Gayla says:

    Several months ago I began working on a blog project with my twin boys. They’ll soon be 13. In short, they are the reporters and investigators who research information and bring it to me to compile entries and post.

    They listen up at school to find what’s hot, what kids are talking about etc. and we go from there.

    I’ve set up a channel under my own google account so we can monitor what they make. We keep a spreadsheet on how much each of them do and factor out pay from there.

    It’s really been a fun project for us and though it’s still in the brainchild stages, we have a working model that seems to work well for now.

    We’re looking on expanding into various niche topics over the next several months, but I like the change it’s stirred in them so far.

  16. Darren Rowse says:

    thanks all for the comments on this one – it’s fascinating to hear your experiences – especially those of you who are teen bloggers. Keep up the great work – you sound like a talented bunch!

  17. Elyse says:

    I’m 17. I’ve had the domain I’m on now since June, so for seven months. I began it trying to make money and soon lost interest.

    Now that I’ve restarted it with the purpose of just writing to write and not caring so much about readership. Oddly enough, in the week or so it’s been up since that reboot of sorts, it’s done much better comparative to the first week in June. And I have an offer for something that I think could turn out well, though it’s still in the planning stages and I’m supposed to be closed-lipped about it.

    You’re always told that things start opening up when you stop caring so much…but you never really believe it until it happens.

    And though my readership isn’t huge, it’s a good improvement from what it was and I see a lot more potential for it as long as I continue to be myself.

    Of course, I have boundaries. I don’t gossip about people because that’s pointless (not to mention restricts readership)…that’s mainly it. I try to keep it positive. When I am negative, it’s usually in regards to politics.

    I’m really hopeful for 2006…I think that it could be a very rewarding year that might eventually give me a jumpstart for college fall of ’07.

    Thanks for this post, Darren.

  18. That article really really inspired me, since
    1) I’ve been so broke as a 14 year old, and ive been looking for a way to actually make money instead of saving lunch money
    2)I’ve been obsessed in xanga

    That last paragraph…reminded me of the day, when somehow, my principal found out about my suicide note i made when i was really depressed from when my girlfriend of 2 years left me, and i was so suicidal that day, but then he found out. called my parents…had to go to this psychiatric center and stay there for 24/7 for no reason and missed school for a week.

    I wish i read this sooner before I did that. But yea, are there any other websites like AdSense that they pay you for advertising ads?

  19. Kunal says:

    I agree with you Darren. I started blogging when I was 15. Didnt knew much about it at that time because of the lack of exposure of blogs in my country. Now, it has been more than 3 years of blogging and I must say its a wonderful feeling to be a teenage blogger. My friends always seek my advice (technology related) as they feel I am the Tech Geek in their eyes. Secondly my blog gives me a chance to earn a decent income per month.

  20. Carl says:

    @ poster no. 19

    Yes, there are various other advertising networks, I have heard about Blog Ad’s recently although I can’t vouch for it’s quality yet.

    I’m considering bringing up blogging with my parents soon, telling them i’d like to start one and see what they think, there’s one thing I think they might worry about is the legal issues but I’m not sure, how can I talk them round this if they bring it up?

    Costs shouldn’t be a problem, a years hosting and domain for a starting blog shouldn’t come above £30-£40. Design is an issue and i’ve got no idea what people charge for blog designing! This might bring it up a bit but I could proberbly do with starting to learn enough CSS to code themes for things like this anyway so it might be a D.I.Y weekend blogwise.

    Looks like Darren has beat me to the topic I planned to do! I’d been thinking of it for ages, I guess now is the time to stop procrastinating. I’ve got another topic up my sleeve though!

    Still got to work out taxes although I would proberbly focus on building content, design and readers for 3 to 6 months, it’s pointless having a site coated with advertisments if it would only make me a little. I don’t surpose anyone can tell me how a child can register for income tax and how old they have to be

  21. miscblogger says:

    Nice post Darren. It totally me think of me when I first started blogging when I was 16. Blogging did earn me some pocket money. I can say that it has sharpened my writing skills. I hope all the teen bloggers (and adult bloggers) reading this article will take head the “A Blog is not Just for Christmas” point. I can totally relate to this. I see my friends dropping like flies because of the Christmas effect (not to say that I haven’t experienced my share of this phenomenon).

  22. Richard.H says:

    Hi, thanks for the article. I am thinking to encourage my sister to start blogging too and these guides are useful!

    Also, I’ve translated this article and add some of mine in Chinese. Can’t find a trackback link so here you are:
    http://www.dur.ac.uk/feng.hong/cn/?p=275

  23. john edelson says:

    I would love to give a part-time job to teenage blogger who has some real expertise in blogging. My site deals with children’s education so they need some interest in that area;

  24. johnny says:

    These are very good suggestional young teens, i too learnt a few from above suggestions. We should think of our goals before we start blogging.

  25. Check out my thoughts on younger kids internet safety. I’m writing a similiar article for publication on preteens and teens. The issues start with safety but also include work habits and productivity. Example: most children share homework help at age 15 thru IM with their classmates. While common, this needs some management and thought. Starting with the fact that most IM discussions cross back and forth from gossip and drivel, but to homework, and back to silliness. Meanwhile, the homework’s not done & the hour is getting late.

    Send me your thoughts (which I will use in my article) – thanks

  26. Seige says:

    Very well written, I can’t agree more. I deal with many teen blogs and these are the things that I see most of the time.

  27. lauren says:

    I’ve been blogging for years now . I started to earn some money from my blogs (I have 3) when I was 16 and it did help pay for my pocketbooks, some clothes.

  28. What do you think? Should parents start by monitoring their preteens and young teens online activity? I think so since its good to start monitoring, give guidance as required, and eventually to stop monitoring. But, if a parent doesn’t start by monitoring, the switch to monitoring later on will be very difficult for the kids to accept.

  29. I’m a 15 year old blogger. I’m currently on my second time around with this blogging thing.

    The first time I was almost “addicted” but I’m managing my time much better now.

  30. Shaan says:

    I started blogging when i was a teenager and now i am having many blogs. . . . I started blogging with an idea in mind and it worked really well. . . And i was also once addicted to it but now i am much better than before.

  31. Deb says:

    Excellent post!

    You brought up many points that I haven’t thought of, and I ‘major’ in teaching teens business. The eternal nature of a blog is a big responsibility for anyone, but I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve changed quite a bit since I was a teenager (I’m 29 + 24…), and definitely wouldn’t want some of my (70′s show-ish) opinions following me around.

    Will be sending my readers your way …thanks!

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  1. [...] Eto ang sa inyo! Astig basahin nyo etong guideline na to! [...]

  2. [...] Guidelines for Teen Pro Bloggers: Blog Tips at ProBlogger – Darren Rowse (Professiona Blogger) gives some advice to teenagers that are thinking about getting into the blogging business professionally. Yes, you heard it here first. Tagged as: [** blogger education] [...]

  3. [...] In addition, ProBlogger has “Guidelines for Teen Pro Bloggers,” which include a list of skills and a recommendation to proceed with caution. [...]