Monday, October 31, 2005

USATODAY.com - Teens wear their hearts on their blog

Unprecedented numbers of teens are using blogs — Web logs — to do what they once did through personal diaries, phone conversations and hangout sessions: cementing friendships with classmates, seeking new friends, venting, testing social limits, getting support and getting all emo ("highly emotional" in blog-speak).

"Blogs are basically reality TV for the Web," says Pete Blackshaw, with marketing analysis firm Intelliseek

"This is the new way kids interact," adds Paul Saffo of the Institute for the Future in Menlo Park, Calif. "Fifty years ago, they borrowed their parents' phones or made their own phones out of string and Dixie cups. Today they have their own cellphones, and they have their own computer accounts and Web pages and they have their own blogs.

"It's part of life in the cyber age."

And it's not just a handful of kids. At least 8 million teens blog, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which plans to release a report on teens and blogging on Wednesday. Those statistics were collected a year ago, and the numbers might be higher if you factor in not just blogs but the world of social websites, especially the booming MySpace, a hybrid site that allows people to post their personal interests, write blogs, put up video and set up ways to communicate with their friends. That site has exploded to 34 million users in just two years — and is dominated by 14- to 34-year-olds.

Blogs and social sites are so popular that many schools have banned them. Just last week a private school in New Jersey took it a step further, telling students to dismantle their personal Internet diaries or face suspension. (Related item: School orders students to remove blogs)

Regardless of the reason, with 87% of all teens online, according to Pew's latest numbers, the Internet is as much a part of teen life as cars, TV or music.

And with video gaining popularity online, "forget it," Aftab says. "Your kids are going to have their own television shows."

Saffo predicts kids and parents will "work it out. It's going to be the usual round of kids getting grounded or getting their schools (angry) at them. But that's not so different than what's happened in the past. I'm more concerned about parents overreacting than about kids making huge mistakes."

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