Micro-blogging

What are they?

Microblogging sites are social networking websites that people can sign up for and send out regular updates on what they are doing. The catch is, it needs to be said in a very limited number of characters. Twitter, for example, limits users to 140 characters and updates are called 'tweets'. Many services are also available through smartphones.

How do they work?

After setting up a free account you can search for people to follow - that can be anyone from friends of yours to celebrities or politicians that you are interested in, or people from your area. People may ask to follow you too, and you can accept them so they can see your regular updates. On your homepage, Twitter asks, "What are you doing?" and you start your tweets by answering that question.

Why are micro-blogs useful?

People use microblogs to share information and discuss subjects of interest. They are usually free to use and really easy to update quickly.

What do you need to keep in mind if your children are using micro-blogs?

Most microblogging sites have a minimum age limit of 13 years. Your child needs to be conscious of their choice of screen name - nothing that might provoke the wrong type of person being friends with them. Anything your child says on a microblog can be seen by anyone else looking at that microblogging site. Remind your child:

  • Not to say anything they wouldn't want the public to know - this includes any personal information about their school name, address, sports teams, etc.
  • To use the settings section to protect their updates from being viewed by anyone they haven't approved as a follower. This will also keep your child's updates from appearing on the public timeline. Never to arrange to meet up with anyone they meet through these sites unless they speak to you first.
  • To choose a username (online computer nickname) that doesn't give away their real name or age.
  • If someone says or does something that makes them feel uncomfortable, they should tell you.

Want to know more?

Sign up to any of these microblogging services and make a start:
Twitter
Plurk
Jaiku
Tumblr
Posterous

If you want to include a URL in your updates, you may need help making it fit into the character limitations:
TinyURL
bitly

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