FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Teen Blogs Alarm Parents, Schools

The Internet, combined with the advent of cheap, easy-to-use blogging tools such as MySpace and Xanga, is allowing teenagers to post their innermost thoughts online. But unlike the diaries of old (which came complete with little padlocks), teens' blogs are open for the world to see. That -- along with the types of information teens are posting on their sites -- have parents, teachers and others who are concerned with the welfare of young people concerned.

Although many teens use these sites to make friends and to serve as a creative outlet, others have posted everything from risque photographs to brutally frank and disturbing confessionals to violent threats. In fact, kids have been known to exaggerate the wildness of their lifestyle, blogging about sex, drugs and drinking when in fact living very G-rated lives.

Advocates for teen online safety warn that not only is this content illegal in many cases, but can put the teens themselves in danger. A young person who posts provocative material, for instance, can find himself or herself the target of unwanted attention; the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that one in five children receives online sexual solicitations. These advocates also warn that such blogs can come back to haunt teens later, as college admissions offices and employers are "googling" candidates more frequently and taking note of what they find.

Schools are working to educate students on responsible online behavior, while parents are wrestling with the dilemma of respecting their kids' rights while protecting them. Just as the appearance of the automobile and telephone rewrote the rules on personal interaction, the Internet and blogging are causing us to rethink what's ethical, appropriate and safe when sharing information with others.

Source: Washington Post