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.
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:
Pocket 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.
Skills – 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.