Is your kid always asking questions? Does the word “Why?” ring in your ears long after you’ve made it to work? Or maybe your preteen has strong opinions on everything from broccoli to the Coco theme song? Is your five-year-old already grilling you about the tooth fairy? Sounds like you have a budding journalist on your hands! Whether you spent your teen years scribbling away at zines you distributed at punk shows or have no experience with publishing, you can still help your creative kids launch an online publication.
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First, encourage them to focus their questions around a topic and help them learn how to ask the right ones to get their story. By asking good questions yourself, you can teach your little cultural or culinary critic how to explain why they feel and think the way that they do. Then whip out a laptop and get to work. While you and your offspring can take plenty of approaches to crafting an online publication, here are some tips, tools, and inspiration.
Your kids will one day only know Tavi Gevinson as an actress, but our generation will remember her as the original kid blogger. At 12 she launched her fashion blog Style Rookie and by 15 she founded the feminist teen magazine titled simply Rookie. “Old fashioned” blogging is a great format for a kid with a unique perspective on Legos, an ear for cool music, or an eye for captivating photography. Blogs are fun because they can experiment with language, writing styles, and artwork. They can publish traditional articles and reviews or play with gifs and audio to get their unique vision out there. A basic blog is great for a kid with a big personality. They’ll learn a lot about branding and the illusory nature of the web when they start shaping their own image and writing.
Some sites you can use as a platform are Blogger or WordPress. Tumblr is especially good for the little Annie Leibovitzes. Get them a Canon PowerShot ELPH 360 digital camera that’s easy to use and has built in Wi-Fi. Or let them get more artsy with a Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 Instant Camera, which is like a Polaroid. Then, have them collage the printed images. If they want to digitize their pictures, scan with an Epson Perfection V550 Photo Color Scanner, or just take a pic with your phone and upload it to their site.
Let’s say your kid is a little more punk rock than tastemaker. Get them a pile of paper, pens, and pencils, and have them go to work sketching and collaging images that express their childhood angst. Have them interview family and friends to show what life is like around them. But first have them watch Canadian character and top-of-the line interviewer Nardwuar expertly speak with musicians. They may think he’s a joke at first, but they can’t grasp the level of deep research he’s done beforehand. You may want to watch them beforehand to gauge age-appropriateness.
In these creations, kids can opine about their toys or describe scenes from school or your last family vacation. This will help them prep for their future job as music editor at the local alt weekly (if they still exist in ten years!). You can scan their creations and put them on Blogger with a little introduction.
Another route is to let them create a zine on a graphic tablet. They can use the Huion H420 USB Graphics Drawing Tablet Board Kit, which is affordable at only about $30. Compatible with major editing software like Clip Studio Paint EX, GIMP, or Adobe Photoshop Sketch, you can just plug it into your computer. For the baller babies, snag a Wacom product in which they can draw, write, and edit like the Cintiq Pro 16 or a two-in-one laptop like the Lenovo Yoga 920. These will put you out more than a grand, but will provide your kids with a design experience akin to getting their BFA. Then, if they want to print it out and pass it around at baby punk shows or circulate it online, they can use Zinepal to turn their blogs, newsfeeds, and web pages into pdfs or an ebook.
Let’s say your child is not into DIY. Maybe you have a little Anna Wintour that wants to be the editor of a magazine like... yesterday. Help them think visually and connect with an audience. Stage photoshoots and have them think about trends they see at school and what those trends say about popular culture.
Programs like Madmagz’s Education Offer or LucidPress will let you work collaboratively with your kids to create a magazine using templates with both free and paid options. FlippingBook also gets their publication online with an extremely professional look. Fans can get the full virtual mag experience by flipping through them with simple clicks.
Let’s say you have more serious kids who are interested in content over image. Have your budding investigative journalists watch interviews done by the greats like David Frost to get them in the mood to grill people in your community. Let’s say you catch a local news segment that captures their attention. See if you can get your kid an interview with the people involved so that they can do more digging. Pick up a recording device like an eBright Digital Voice Recorder. You can force them to transcribe their interviews till their little fingers are calloused, or do it for them. You can also use a service like Rev.com and just pay someone else to do it. All of this will help prep them for J-school.
Ten-year-old Hyldie Lysiak became a star when she broke the news of a murder in her neighborhood. Have your kids read through her Orange Street News for inspiration.
Finally, make sure to review content before it goes live. Everyone needs an editor! Most importantly, don’t forget to disable the comments section. As author and publisher Dave Eggers once expertly noted: “The comment section is the playground for the insane.” The internet is a jungle, but it’s also a stepping stone for the success of many scribes just like your kids.
Liz Tracy is a Miami-bred, Boston-based freelance writer, editor, and mother.
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