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Thread: Dear Diary: Teens spill secrets in their web logs

  1. #1

    Dear Diary: Teens spill secrets in their web logs

    Dear Diary: Teens spill secrets in their Web logs
    October 10, 2004
    Gannett News Sevice/The Lafayette Daily Advertiser

    West Bloomfield, Mich., high school sophomore Rachel Hines writes openly about a recent surgery, her “crazy” 89-year-old aunt, her swim teams’ meek athletic prowess and school being a drag.

    Instead of spilling her secrets into the lined pages of a lock-and-key diary, Hines is one of millions of American teenagers turning to the Web, writing in online journals, Web logs, or simply blogs.

    What began as a trend among techies has become commonplace for American teens who wrote their first sentences on keyboards, not paper. Their musings are available for anyone to see — including parents, teachers, friends and strangers.

    But some are concerned that teens may not understand the negative consequences of disclosing details of their sex lives, families, drug use and relationships.

    Some experts laud online journals because they get students to write and enable them to try out personalities and test boundaries in a virtual world they often find safer than the physical one.

    Others say the proliferation of blogs is a natural extension of a generation raised on reality television, where the lines between what is and isn’t real, and what is and isn't private, have grown fuzzy.

    Mixed reviews
    Whether they contain musings about the change of seasons or fights at home, Web diaries get mixed opinions from educators.

    For kids who love to write creatively, it’s a nice way to get feedback, says Mindy Nathan, a Bloomfield Hills teacher. “But I know some of them have felt really insulted and offended by what others have said about their writing.”

    Web journals are a forum for students to try out new things and express themselves, says Yong Zhao, a professor of educational technology at Michigan State University in Lansing, Mich.

    “Kids want to be socially accepted, and for kids who don’t have a real environment to express their personal feelings because they’re embarrassed, this is a way for them to do that,” he says.

    Youngsters are drawn to blogs because they find them more interesting and creative than school, says Kevin Leander, an assistant professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., who researches how young people use the Web.

    Unintended consequences
    While many teen blogs are filled with the day’s events, others are the equivalent of posting the school’s rumor mill online.

    Teachers like Nathan worry that youngsters are too naive to make good decisions about what is acceptable to publish in blogs. And parents may be unaware of the existence of blogs, or may not read them.

    “They talk about having sex, using drugs,” Nathan says. “I don’t think they’re savvy enough consumers of these Internet Web sites.”

    Zhao believes schools should offer classes on the psychology of living with technology. “Some researchers believe people online do not have a sense of physical consequences,” he says. “They don’t feel like it’s real because the audience is not close to them. ... They feel like it’s anonymous.”

    But there are real-life consequences, he says. For one thing, predators and pedophiles can track children down, he said.

    The blogging trend comes at a time when perceptions of privacy have become blurred because of the cultural shift toward reality television, says Leander.

    “There’s a constant self-surveillance both online and on TV,” he said. “We’re fascinated about it and at the same time, we're excited about how to maintain our privacy.”

    Keeping watch
    Parents, here are some tips for monitoring your children’s Web activity: [list][*]Keep computers in a general access area, not in a child’s room. If you see a window is minimized when you come by, that should send up a red flag.[*]Reading a child’s blog is a judgment call. Watch for mood changes, falling grades and then decide whether to check on your child’s use of blogs.[*]Ask that children not use their real names or dates of birth as part of a screen name.[*]Do not allow profiles, which often include information such as the child's name, age and address. Do not allow photos that can make it easier for pedophiles to identify your child.[*]Know your child’s computer password.[*]Some parents do not know enough about computers and should consider taking a class.[*]Boost your child’s self-esteem. Pedophiles look for children who don't have a lot of self-esteem.[*]Advise children to not respond to e-mail or instant messages or open attachments from people they don't know.[/list:u]

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  3. Dear Diary: Teens spill secrets in their web logs

    Just this past couple of months, two girls, ages 13 and 14 hitch hiked to Toronto from the Vancouver BC area to meet up with someone they met on line.
    Internet safety should be taught in schools now. Our elementry school has a bank of computers and the children can use them if they have some spare time. I have gone in there looking for my son to see 11 and 12 year olds closing windows on some chat line so I couldn't see what they were typing and to whom. I use a keystroke log program on our computer at home and it is in the living room. I sort of scared my daughter cause I got her profile that she used to talk to her friends, went downstairs and got on my office computer and pretended to be a friend of hers. I then changed my tone and began asking questions about her school, pets, and things and said I wasn't really her friend she thought she was talking too. It took two or three days before she talked to me about this and I thanked her for telling me then told her that I was that person. That made her think about the safety on the internet.

  4. #3

    Dear Diary: Teens spill secrets in their web logs

    Good job, dad! Unfortunately, kids are just too trusting for their own goods. It's hard to balance that and safety without making them scared that can be hard.

  5. Dear Diary: Teens spill secrets in their web logs

    In todays modern era, with all the toys available to kids today, one has to be very careful.

  6. #5

    Dear Diary: Teens spill secrets in their web logs

    I very recently made the decision to stop blogging for reasons similar to what has been discussed above. I found I was getting a little personal, or else feeling awkward when I knew I couldn't be as personal as I would want to be in a real diary. Also, the blog service I was using had included a feature where people could leave each other notes in a public arena, which opened up a Pandora's box. Many of the notes were offensive or abusive, and this would trigger lengthy fights with different people taking different people's sides. It took me a long time to realize I didn't need to be participate or even simply watch such discussions. Today I enjoy sitting in a cafe and writing by hand in a journal on a daily basis.

  7. #6

    Dear Diary: Teens spill secrets in their web logs

    I remember making the decision I spoke of above, and adhering to it briefly. At a certain point, I went back to blogging, and only recently have I re-discovered what a huge problem it is. I came here this morning because I am concerned about Internet relationships in general, and I am realizing how careless I have been on the Internet. It is ironic that I am seeking help on the Internet, however I do work from home on my computer, and I have no reason to believe that this particular forum isn't a healthy place to be.

    When I first discovered the phenomenon of blogging, I was totally fascinated to read a young woman's account of her typical day. It was like stepping into someone's world, and seeing their better self, the part of them that a diary reveals transparently, without regard to who might read it. The honest part, without regard to appearances. Gradually, however, over time, my online journal has become ALL about appearances. I am so afraid who is going to say what to whatever I post, and what kind of comment they are going to make--I don't know why I keep doing it. It's almost like an addiction.

    It was also a while before I realized that most of the bloggers were teenagers, usually girls--which would set me rather radically apart from them in age and gender. But I kept going. That alone is a concern. When a number of teenagers comment on my writing, why should I be becoming overly concerned about the opinions of a bunch of people whose opinions I would easily put into perspective in real life??

    Anyway, I initially came here this morning to ask for help how to get out of it. It will sort of always be there--the temptation to post on that site from time to time will return as long as it is humanly possible to do so. What kind of discipline or commitment do I need to have to prevent me from ever going there again? Do I owe anything to all the people who actually enjoy reading what I am saying, and who seem to depend on the fact that they can read my blog as part of their daily routine? Do I owe anyone an explanation, or do I simply let it go and walk away without any kind of closing comment?

    I'm a little bit embarrassed that I went back to it again after making a commitment to stop, but I'm more concerned than embarrassed.

  8. Dear Diary: Teens spill secrets in their web logs

    Anything that becomes a compulsion is worrisome, I think, and in this case, I can see that you have other concerns as well.

    I don't think you have any "obligation" at all to others posting on the Blog... it's not like a forum which is designed more as a community from day 1. However, there are several options.

    1. You could simply delete the blog immediately.

    2. You could post an announcement stating that due to other commitments you will remove the blog in say a week -- then configure the blog to no longer accept comments and stop posting. After a week, delete the blog.

    3. You could disable comments from other posts and stop posting yourself and just leave it there for a while. Eventually, those who read it frequently will recognize it as a dead link and find another place to congregate. Or anyone now reading it could of course start another similar blog somewhere -- blogger.com not only offers the software free but also the hosting, if you wish.

  9. Dear Diary: Teens spill secrets in their web logs

    If you're really concerned about it, hon, and keep returning to it even after you've made a committment to stop, I'd just delete the blog. You don't owe anything to a bunch of people you don't really know. There's no need to explain. Blogs disappear, bloggers drop out or move to other sites. If you delete the blog and cancel your membership (if one exists), also remove any profile that might exist. That should set things right for you to keep your committment to yourself and get on with the important things in your life. :o)

  10. #9

    Dear Diary: Teens spill secrets in their web logs

    Sorry for the long delay in responding. David, apparently I'm no longer receiving e-mail notifications of replies, so just today I realized that both you and ThatLady replied to my post months ago.

    I am still blogging, and still dealing with periodic disruptions of my well-being due to meeting all kinds of people on the blog service with all kinds of motives, most recently a woman who wanted to have an online affair with me and keep it secret from her husband. Despite these disruptions, I seem to continue to blog, and enjoy it for the most part, so I don't know what to make of it.

    Transferring to Blogger might be a good idea, since there are more adults on that service, and I am more likely to receive constructive comments (if any at all--I'm not sure how advertising is done on Blogger, if at all. I could probably defect there and only invite a few trusted readers from the previous service).

    In any case, it all seems to fall into my general "addiction" to writing (which I don't really mind) compared with a kind of compulsive Internet behavior (which I do mind, but have a hard time controlling).

  11. #10

    Dear Diary: Teens spill secrets in their web logs

    Sorry for the long delay in responding. David, apparently I'm no longer receiving e-mail notifications of replies, so just today I realized that both you and ThatLady replied to my post months ago.

    I am still blogging, and still dealing with periodic disruptions of my well-being due to meeting all kinds of people on the blog service with all kinds of motives, most recently a woman who wanted to have an online affair with me and keep it secret from her husband. Despite these disruptions, I seem to continue to blog, and enjoy it for the most part, so I don't know what to make of it.

    Transferring to Blogger might be a good idea, since there are more adults on that service, and I am more likely to receive constructive comments (if any at all--I'm not sure how advertising is done on Blogger, if at all. I could probably defect there and only invite a few trusted readers from the previous service).

    In any case, it all seems to fall into my general "addiction" to writing (which I don't really mind) compared with a kind of compulsive Internet behavior (which I do mind, but have a hard time controlling).

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