Concerns Over Teen Blogging Continue

Posted on November 25, 2005

There is no questions teens and young adutls are actively blogging. Facebook has 4 million members and MySpace.com has over 32 million members. As teen blogging rises there are concerns: risks from exposing to much information to possible predators, cyberbullying, blog addiction, and interruption with homework and studying. Some bloggers make light of this issue and have a cavalier "everything about blogging is good" attitude but as a recent ZDNet article on the issue explains some kids are posting content that could get them into trouble. Parents and schools are also concerned about cyberbullying and distraction from studies which has led to some schools banning blogging -- at least while the kids are at school.
But there can be a down side. Teens are doing more than just pouring their hearts out in these online forums; many are posting provocative pictures, discussing real or imagined sex lives, berating and threatening one another, and recounting drinking and drug use. And that can get them in trouble with stalkers, authority figures and even future employers, experts say.

"Kids are doing outrageous things to get attention," said Parry Aftab, a privacy lawyer and executive director of WiredSafety.org, a Web site dedicated to online child safety. "They are looking for their day in the sun, 15 minutes of fame, something to show how they are special."
One of the main issues is that many teens seem to have a false sense of privacy -- that no adults, school officials or people involved in law enforcement will ever see their blog. This sense of privacy combined with peer pressure and the immediacy of posting leads them to post more outrageous content then they probably normally would. And once a teenager has posted something they wish they hadn't it isn't always easy to get rid of. They can delete the original blog post but blog content also gets distributed in RSS feeds, gets linked to and quoted and sometimes stays in search engine archives. Parry Aftab from WiredSafety.org offered some advice for parents about teen blogging.
Aftab tells parents to focus on the "three Cs": content, contact and commercialism. Content -- what kids are actually saying online and how they say it -- often comes as a shock to parents but isn't always the most critical thing. "Their first concern is (obscene) language," Aftab said. "Their bigger concern should be about contact: who can communicate with them that they don't know."

Many of the teen-oriented blog sites now have privacy options that let users restrict who can view their site, giving access only to people they know. Parents concerned about safety may want to suggest or insist their teen use those access controls, Aftab added.