18-year-old blogger Amanda on blogging

by Anne Collier

Teen blogging is definitely on parents', educators', reporters' radar screens now (it has been on law-enforcement ones a while longer). Stories about it – good, bad, and somewhere in between – are popping up in local news sites nationwide.

The story of Karen, mother of a MySpacer in California, represents that snowball effect. Last August she talked with me about her concerns for her teen blogger. After NetFamilyNews featured her story, a Wall Street Journal reporter called me for sources on the subject, and Karen gave permission for him to call her. Since that article ran, national-level TV interest kicked in. Karen told me this week she's had calls from producers at The Oprah Winfrey Show and Good Morning America. Below you'll find just a sampler of the best recent coverage and resources from around country, including a Business Week cover story.

But first: a blogger's own perspective, that of Amanda, 18, an American au pair in The Netherlands and user of three blogging sites. She emailed me in response to Karen's story, "A mom writes: Teen solicited in MySpace"….

"Of course there are creeps on MySpace," Amanda wrote, but there are creeps everywhere. Not just on the Internet. Besides, blogging teaches important job skills! Many kids learn how to edit style sheets and html because of blogs.

"They are also a great place to make friends that you can tell everything. You have times when you just can't tell your real-life friends about the things going on in your life."

I emailed her back, wondering if she'd talk about her own blogging experience, and she sent back some great insights:

NetFamilyNews: Where do you blog? Why did you pick that service?
Amanda: "I have 3 different blogs: a livejournal, a xanga, and a myspace. I have three because my friends all have different blog spaces and this helps me stay in touch with them."

NFN: How much do you share – pretty private stuff? Do you use privacy features in the sites?
A: "I put a lot in them. When I am angry with someone, that goes in. Something funny happened today, that goes in. Sometimes I cut stuff out of one journal because of the friends I have on it. My best friend is on my livejournal and not my xanga. So when I am mad at her, it goes into my xanga. I don't usually, I used to, but I don't have my ex-boyfriend's mom reading my journal either."

NFN: Have you been contacted by strangers? What do you do about it – just ignore them?
A: "If they are nice, I might talk to them. If someone posts a really useful comment on my journal, I usually skim through their journal. Sometimes you get creepy people trying to contact you, but I just block them."

NFN: Do your parents know you blog – have you all talked about it at all? What's their position?
A: "I haven't lived with my parents since I was 15, so they have no control of my Internet usage."

NFN: So are the people in your blogging community mostly people you met online, i.e. 'strangers'? Is your purpose in blogging mainly to explore stuff you wouldn't share with people you've met in person, or is that just part of it?
A: "Some of my real-life friends are on my blogs also, a lot of people from old schools, people from concerts. Some people are from forums. It's really nice to read about how someone else's life is going. I met my best friend online. We talked on a fourm for a long time, and then we talked on AIM, then we met in person. You can find people interested in the same things you are – music, books, animals, etc., so much easier than in person. You're not limited to just people in your own city."

NFN: Do your real-life friends (at school, for example) not know about your blog?
A: "Some of them do, the ones that also have blogs. When I was in school anyway."

NFN: Does blogging kind of replace the social life you had when you were in school?
A: "No I go out a lot. I had the same online life when I was in school. I have been a pretty heavy Internet user for a couple years now. It's an easy way to find things to do. I found my favorite coffee house in Oklahoma over the Internet. We all take our laptops and watch webtoons and help each other with coding for our blogs."

Readers: I love hearing from you. Email me anytime about this article, blogging at your house or school, or any other kid-tech issue you'd like to air. My address: anne@netfamilynews.org.

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Sampler of coverage/resources on blogging

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