I'm just checking my Google referrals, Mum

School-age bloggers are helping to document everything from dodgy dinners to tween fashion. But can they stay safe in the wilds of the web? Gillian Orr finds out

When nine-year-old Martha Payne started a blog about her school lunches earlier this year, she could not have foreseen the uproar that would ensue. Highlighting the measly portions and questionable nutritional value of the meals, the blog, NeverSeconds, quickly gained global attention. It wasn't long before Argyll and Bute Council banned her from taking photos of her food. A storm of online protest ensued, which saw everyone from Jamie Oliver to Scottish Education Secretary Mike Russell join in, and the council was forced to backtrack. Her blog, which links to a JustGiving site, has now raised over £100,000 for Mary's Meals, a charity that runs school feeding projects in communities around the world.

It is just one of many great examples of children using blogs as a force for good. Eleven–year-old Dylan Ward has raised thousands of pounds for charity through Dylan's Wonders, which sells home-made charms and cards, with 50 per cent of the proceeds going to charity. Tavi Gevinson famously started her fashion blog, Style Rookie, when she was just 13 years old. She now runs Rookie, a feminist website for teenagers.

The discussion about children's activity online so often centres on fears for their safety, it can be easy to forget the opportunities that the internet presents to young people. "Blogging is a very creative thing to do and it gets children interested in writing again so it's wonderful," says John Carr, an international internet consultant on child safety. "It should be encouraged, not feared. But obviously it's important to have a discussion about it."

Data from Ofcom and EU Kids Online show that a fifth of parents don't discuss staying safe online with their children, but with 15 per cent of 12 to 15-year-olds now blogging, what advice is there for parents?

"The most important thing of all is to talk about it with your children," says John Grounds, director of the NSPCC's Child Protection Consultancy. "In the end there is nothing better for keeping children safe than being informed and aware." The UK Council for Child Internet Safety provides guidance and Vodafone even has a magazine called Digital Parenting, which Grounds recommends. A lot of it is mere common sense: insist they don't share personal information; and encourage them to only upload content they would happily show a teacher.

And what about protecting your child from online bullying or trolling? "That's a feature of the internet in general, including the blogosphere," says Carr. "Unfortunately there's nothing you can do really. It's a sad feature but all you can do is counsel your child about it. The key thing is to encourage them not to do it and to teach them that not only can it be very hurtful, but it can be potentially criminal. Also, if they are being victimised themselves then encourage them to come and tell you and talk to you."

Although many blogging platforms, such as Wordpress, insist that users are at least 13-years-old, this is rarely adhered to. "It's unenforced, it's a complete joke," says Carr. "It's to try to give themselves a bit of wriggle room in case anything goes wrong. I think if anything did go wrong, the fact they make no effort at all to verify the age of their bloggers would mean they had little defence."

Blogging remains a great way for children to engage with the internet, not only teaching them valuable skills and encouraging them to write but, increasingly, putting good causes into action. "It is overwhelmingly a wonderful thing," says Grounds. "The opportunities are there for children to learn, to make contact with people and ideas from all over the world, which is something that we've never had before."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
US comedian Bill Mahr
people
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Sport
football
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
News
Friends for life … some professionals think loneliness is more worrying than obesity
scienceSocial contact is good for our sense of wellbeing - but it's a myth that loneliness kills, say researchers
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Life and Style
Models – and musicians – on the catwalk in Dior Homme for the men’s 2015/16 fashion show in Paris
fashionAt this season's Paris shows, various labels played with the city boys' favourite
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Sauce Recruitment: Programme Sales Executive - Independent Distributor

£25000 - £28000 per annum + circa 28K + 20% bonus opportunity: Sauce Recruitme...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Are you an ambitious, money mot...

Guru Careers: Investment Writer / Stock Picker

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: A freelance Investment Writer / Stock Picker ...

Guru Careers: PPC Account Executive / Paid Search Executive

£20 - 24K + Benefits: Guru Careers: An enthusiastic PPC Account / Paid Search ...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us