By Barbara McRae
Four million teens are blogging! What's a blog you ask? A blog (web + log) is an online journal often hosted free of charge by such companies as MySpace.com, Live Journal, and FaceBook.com.
Blogging is quickly becoming the "teen" pastime of choice. It has huge appeal because it's fast and easy; if you can write, you can blog. Itís a place that allows free self expression and it's interactive; young people post their replies to individual blogs. Itís also social; kids can connect and share their ideas with other young people.
All of these reasons perfectly fit the needs of the Atari generation: kids born in the early 80s who grew up with video games. These kids are wired differently; they have unique characteristics and have a strong need for attention, close connection, and a fast feedback loop.
Blogging at its best can build social skills, enhance writing ability, and provide opportunities for asserting personal views and concerns to millions on the net.
At worst, blogging can turn negative. The illusion of privacy and typing into your computer within your own four walls can lead to dangerous consequences, including a rise in Internet stalking and cyber bullying.
Often the need for attention and self-identity is so great that teens post provocative pictures and outrageous descriptions that can get them in trouble. Blogging may FEEL like its private, but it's public! Plus, posting information that is deemed harmful to a person's reputation can result in legal action.
Blogging Tip for Teens:
1. Keep personal information about YOURSELF private; leave detailed information about your name, contact data, school name, your close relationships, and the places you frequent out of your blog. Predators look for this information.
2. Keep personal information about OTHERS private; giving out their contact information could endanger others. If you want to vent about suspicions you have of the behavior of others, don't post it. Rumors are gossip; if you gossip verbally and it causes injury to another, its slander; if you post it, its libel.
3. Check your post before submitting it. Read it as if you were a stranger and double check for revealing personal information. Then, ask yourself, how you'd feel if your post was read by your parents or teachers. Would you still send it? How about if it showed up in your daily newspaper? Remember, blogs are public. If you're not comfortable having the whole world know your content, rewrite it.
4. Check the photos that you are including. Are you compromising yourself or others? Would you be comfortable having your future employer see them? It's possible they would. The photos and information you post are readily accessible to anyone.
5. Protect your blog. Keep your password to yourself and exit out of your blog page when your computer is unattended to be sure that no one else can enter and write something, pretending to be you.
IF you are concerned about your teen's blog, you can do a search on Google (www.blogsearch.google.com). Use keywords (your child's name or email address). You can also go directly to the popular teen sites listed above and enter your search information.
Should you read your child's blog? Given the public nature of blogs, why not? Just make sure that you don't over react if you find something disturbing. Turn it into a teaching opportunity instead.
You can't help your teens if you're uninformed.
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