As you can imagine, e-safety is a subject that comes up a lot when talking about blogs and I get asked the same questions repeatedly. I will list some of them below but before I do that I will state my own personal beliefs about e-safety and blogs. I believe that a properly set up class blog is one of the safest platforms available for children to learn about the internet; interact collaboratively and socially with others; and learn safe behaviours when online. This is because that although children are using an authentic live social platform that is open to the web, absolutely everything they do is moderated by teachers.
Blogging is an extremely flexible platform that can range from completely open and unmoderated to private and closed, so the following comments apply only to the way we normally set up blogs for schools.
Can anyone write a comment on my class blog?
Broadly speaking, the answer is yes. The vast majority of class blogs are open to viewing by anyone on the internet and anyone can leave a comment. All those comments are moderated by a teacher before they appear on the blog. It is possible to restrict who can comment on your blog to only people with logins but we wouldn't recommend that as you lose the power of audience to excite and engage your learners.
Can someone contact a child via my class blog?
No. The only way to interact with a blog as a visitor is by leaving a comment, and since all comments are moderated by a teacher then any attempt to elicit personal information from a child would be immediately detected.
Can children chat on a blog?
No. There is no chat function. All blog "conversations" are asynchronous. This means that any comment left by a child has to be approved by the teacher therefore there is always a delay (possibly hours or even days) between a comment being left and it appearing in public on the blog.
I'm worried about abusive comments appearing on my blog.
While it is possible for someone to leave an abusive comment, it will never appear on the blog as the teacher will not approve the comment. It's worth noting that in 12 years of running Creative Blogs the only abusive comments that have ever been received (and it's a very rare occurrence) are either from children in school or siblings and ex pupils. We know this because every comment that is left leaves the Internet address of the computer or mobile that was responsible for the comment. This tells us that those comments received were always local to the school. We cannot cite a single instance in 12 years and over 200 different schools of an "Internet stranger" leaving abusive comments on a class blog.
Can children publish their work without it being moderated?
If children have a login to their class blog they can write blog posts. Normally when you create children's accounts on blogs you give them a user level in Wordpress known as a "Contributor". Anything posted by a contributor has to be approved by a teacher before it appears live on the blog. Some schools use a user level known as an "Author." An author can publish blogposts without prior approval by a teacher, however this is always an "earned" privilege and children given this role will be relatively experienced bloggers. For more on Wordpress user roles click here.
I'm worried about images of children appearing on a blog.
In most circumstances placing an image of a child on a website or a blog is a privacy issue rather than a safeguarding one. An image of a child on a blog in your school uniform is no more a safety risk than a person walking past your school and seeing a child in the playground or a picture of a child in a local newspaper. Permission should always be sought before placing an image of a child on a blog (via an on-entry permission slip) for reasons of privacy and no personal information should be published alongside any image. However, there may well be children in your setting for whom placing their picture on a blog IS a safeguarding issue and policies and procedures need to be in place to make sure pictures of these children do not appear. As far as I am aware there is no documented example in the UK of a child ever having been placed in danger because of having their image published on a school website.
Can an image of a child be copied off my blog?
Even though it is relatively straight forward to disable "right-click, copy" there is absolutely no point as anyone with even the smallest knowledge of web tools can easily copy any image off any website anywhere. The nature of the Internet is such that you should never publish any pictures on any website that you are not happy for anyone on the web to potentially copy. This does not represent a risk to that individual at all. The same rule applies to video, audio or any other media that you upload anywhere on the Internet. It is a fundamental rule of the Internet that you should never upload anything to a website that you don't want to share with the world.
Here are some examples of letters to parents, policies, rules and guidelines that I have collected from around the web, all are freely available to share and will happily add to this collection if you have some good examples, too: http://supportdesk.creativeblogs.net/knowledgebase-tags/sample-policies-and-rules/