Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.

2005-04-04

Teens, Blogging, and Cyberbullying

I doubt most teens need much instruction in using blog technology -- judging just from my sister and her group of friends, all of whom are now in their first year of college and who have been blogging using LiveJournal and Blogger for at least the last year, tweens & teens with computers & Internet access are blogging already -- so what angles could I take on the subject?

Looming large are the dual issues of privacy and bullying, which Anastasia alludes to in her thoughtful post on school blogging bans. Emily Nussbaum touched on this issue, too, in her NYT Magazine piece, My So-Called Blog. Reading a variety of teen blogs, it's easy to see why this is an issue: lots of kids don't seem to have developed a privacy instinct when it comes to blogging. It seems like teens believe that the vast size of the Internet is enough to protect them from harm, that along with humorous or serious rants about school, friends, romantic relationships, and their hobbies, they can also write about personal information like their school name and location, the names of their teachers, friends, and relatives, without fear of being found by someone who maybe shouldn't find them.

If tweens & teens think that what they post online remains anonymous, it only makes sense that they'd be willing to open up. I look at it as a modern, secular confessional, and there's some research which bears this out, courtesy of Georgetown Master's student David Huffaker:

"...not only did teenage bloggers write a lot more than would be expected, they were also using the blogs as a form of 'self-therapy'. Blogs are an area for self expression. It gives them a space to be candid or personal where they don't usually have. I thought at first it was about exhibitionism, but a less cynical view is that they are trying to meet a common human need of finding connection."

(You can read Huffaker's thesis in its entirety here.)

According to a recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, "81% of parents of online teens say that teens aren’t careful enough when giving out information about themselves online and 79% of online teens agree with this." Yikes. Where's the disconnect coming from? If an overwhelming majority of both parents and teens agree that teens are oversharing deeply personal information about themselves online, and if this oversharing is a major contributing factor to cyberbullying, how are we going to fill that gap?

I might include some of the activities suggested by the MindOH! Foundation at their Cyberbullying Resources page.

I don't think I'd want to focus exclusively on the doom & gloom, though. There are a bunch of other great ways to approach a teen blogging workshop. Teen author Lara Zeises focuses on finding a writing voice through blogging, and Blog Business World has a few things to say about that, too (via unmediated). Teens heading off to college might want to write collaborative blogs, both as a "Let's keep in touch!" tool, and as a method of documenting their experiences for posterity. Really motivated teens could use their blogs as a marketing device -- young entrepreneurs, take note!

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