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Online Journaling: What is Your Teen Blogging?

Courtesy of BattleCry.com

CBN.comBlogging, or online journaling, is a unique mix of the personal with the public. Web logs, commonly known as blogs, have never been so popular and have captured the attention of millions of young people. On them, individuals post journal entries that are open for their friends and the general public to read and respond to. However, many parents remain in the dark about what their kids are writing about.

Free to express themselves online, teens hold nothing back. When parents find out what their kids post, they may be shocked by what they see.

Blogs can be windows into the often secret lives of teens. Struggles such as cutting and eating disorders come out and are often discussed in vivid detail.

On her blog on Xanga.com, one teen wrote, “I am anorexic but I hide it from my family and most of my friends. I am afraid, depressed and all alone. I just want some help but those who know about my anorexia don't/can’t help me. I am searching for help or support online. If you can help me, please comment and help me.”

What else are teens writing about? Some young people post provocative pictures or make themselves appear older than they are. Mary Ellen Handy, a volunteer with wiredsafety.org and the technology coordinator at George Washington Middle School in New Jersey, found that parents are largely unaware. “The girls are all made up to look seductive…Parents have no clue this is going on. You think your kid is safe because they are in your house in their own bedroom. Who can hurt them when you are guarding the front door? But (the Internet) is a bigger opening than the front door.” She also discovered that one third of the students at the middle school have blogs, and only 5 percent of their parents know about it.

Sometimes blogs even become a medium for posting hate speech, gossip, trash talking, and slander. As one parent put it, “One of the most disturbing aspects to a lot of the teen blogs is the amount of profanity and trashing of not only other kids but parents as well. I think a lot of parents would get a big dose of reality if they read some of the trash that’s coming out of sweet Johnny or Susie’s ‘mouth’ online.”

The scariest part may be who else is reading. Pedophiles, sexual predators on the hunt, are known to use the web as a means of luring young people. Through blogs, they may have found another way to reach their prey.

Blogs can be a productive creative outlet. They are also a way for people to keep in touch with each other. They offer insight into the heart, soul, and life of a person, but just as with other useful tools, there is a dark side.

Take Action

Many parents are not as tech savvy as their children, but this should not keep them from knowing what their kids do online. If you do not know how to maneuver your way around computers or the Internet, then take time to learn. Do not be afraid to ask for help, even from your kids.

One technology teacher suggests that parents monitor, guide, and supervise their children’s computer use, no matter what age they are.

Online trends change quickly, and unless parents and other leaders stay on top of what’s new, they won’t know how to protect their kids. A great way to stay current is by knowing the lingo. If the follow terms seem unfamiliar it may be time to get caught up: iPods, chat rooms, IMs, blogs, text-messaging, sharing music, My Space, and Xanga.

If you see or read something on your young person’s blog that concerns you, try talking with them about it. It may be just a hint of bigger issues. Ask questions and listen to their side of the story when approaching them about a potentially shaky subject. Remember James 1:19 (NLT), “You must be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” As you seek to understand what is going on in their lives, you will uncover opportunities to share the encouragement and challenge they need to grow in their relationship with the Lord.

For more tips on how to keep your kids safe online, go to the FBI's Parent Guide to Internet Safety.

Sources:
MSNBC, Austin American-Statesman, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Cape-Cod times, Xanga, Maximized Manhood, FBI


Read youth culture news, youth ministry articles, and join the fight for America’s young people at http://www.battlecry.com. Article reprinted with permission.

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