Blogging has not lost popularity with the over-30 crowd, but teens seem to be moving away from it to partake in quick sound bites that satisfy an instant need. A 2010 study conducted by Pew Research Center concluded that over 50 percent of teens text message each day, with one in three sending more than 100 text messages per day. For those teens who need more than 140 characters to share their thoughts, blogging offers an avenue for them to share their ideas and feelings on a wide range of subjects.
Most social networks and text messaging allow very short, one-off posts that share a single idea or event. Blogging allows teens to fully express themselves through longer posts and articles. They can post as often as they want about any subject, and use the writing style that is most comfortable for them. Through commenting on the posts, readers can interact and begin a dialogue with the blogger.
Researchers at Ohio State University followed the topics 100 teen bloggers were writing about, and the findings were surprising. Across the board, teens were using their blogs to write about positive behaviors rather than just venting. A good portion of teen girls blog about fashion and style while teen boys blog about sports, but other topics rose to the surface as being popular blog fodder among teens, including:
- School activities
- Schoolwork and studying
- Spending time with family members
- Attending church
The Ohio State Study pored through the participants’ blogs to get a feel for what activities the teens tended to blog about. These included:
- Playing video or computer games
- Watching television
- Doing homework
- Attending some type of music, dance or sports lessons
- Browsing the Internet
- Participating in religious activities
Many members of the older generation worry that today’s teens are losing the ability to express themselves through writing and utilize proper spelling and grammar due to the casual nature of texting and micro-blogging on social networks. These mediums also favor the use of brief snippets and utilize acronyms heavily. Blogging can help teens develop their writing skills through the use of longer posts and the need to clearly express and develop a thought or idea from beginning to end.
Having a Voice
When teens start blogging, the world of retail takes notice. Marketing executives have been trying to get into the minds of young adults for years, and following blogs written by teens has allowed them to peek into this once-secret world. This gives teen bloggers an incredible amount of power to help shape fashion and products that are designed for the younger generation.
Benefits and Drawbacks
In addition to helping develop good writing skills, blogging can also help teens stay in touch with friends, keep busy and stay out of trouble when not in school. Blogging can even give them exposure to professionals who will help them when they apply for a job. Unfortunately, it can also have some unintended consequences. Since teens tend to wear their hearts on their sleeve while blogging, too much personal information can set the stage for online bullying. Parents need to be particularly aware of their teens’ online activities and look for signs of emotional distress that may signal something has gone wrong online.
Teens who post too much identifiable information about themselves, particularly their real name, address or phone number can fall prey to predators who troll the Internet looking for young girls and boys. Parents can help teens have a safe blogging experience by monitoring online activity, especially for children under 13 years old. USA Today journalist Janet Kornblum has several steps teens can follow to make their online blogging experience safer:
- Omit any information that can identify who you are, such as the name of your school or the city you live in.
- Obscure your identity in any photos you post on your blog. You can easily accomplish this through special lighting, sunglasses or a different angle of the camera.
- Use anonymous email addresses that do not include your name and cannot be traced back to your blog.
Safe blogging by teens has many educational and emotional benefits but also has its share of drawbacks. Due to the public view on the Internet, any information posted on a teen’s blog is instantly available to anyone in the world with an Internet connection. Parents need to be supportive but also involved to be sure their children make it safely through the adolescent years.