Post in our forum for parents, teens - You! - at

Friday, June 06, 2008

Just because they crave attention?

Why do teens post such personal information online for all the world to see? The burning question of the first decade of the 21st century, perhaps - at least for parents and other digital non-natives. I'm late in pointing you to this, but "Exposed," a recent cover story of the New York Times Magazine looks at "oversharing" in the full, seemingly unedited story of Emily (Gould) the 20-something compulsive blogger. Her story suggests that the answer may partly be the reality TV phenomenon ("that the surest route to recognition is via humiliation in front of a panel of judges," aka random readers); genetics ("some people have always been more naturally inclined toward oversharing than others ... technology just enables us to overshare on a different scale"); a twisted concept of free speech acted out ("I kept coming back to the idea that I had a right to say whatever I wanted"); and crying out for attention. I agreed with her when she wrote: "I don't think people write online exclusively because they crave attention."

In any case, overexposure phenomenon is probably not going away - partly because diaries and journals will never go away and partly because the audience (or the imagined audience) certainly won't. As Emily told a Times reader in a Q&A the paper later published, "It's probably a pretty safe bet that people will continue to make mistakes online - after all, there is absolutely nothing stopping them from doing so besides themselves. This is the best and worst thing about the blogosphere," she continues, referring to its readers. "Other people's mistakes, which is to say, their impulsively revealed thoughts and opinions, can be fascinating."

Though there is pressure on young people to express themselves digitally, this doesn't mean oversharing is what social networking is all about and it doesn't mean all children will. The way teens express themselves online is highly individual. It also might help parents to know that privacy is no more black & white where personal blogging's concerned than is life itself. Emily refers to an important book that points this out: "I'm reading an interesting book right now about reputation and the Internet by Daniel Solove, and in it he posits that we've traditionally thought of privacy as a binary: private vs. public. He thinks that we should begin to think of degrees of semi-privacy, in terms of both self-regulation and legal regulation." And teens reportedly are already thinking in terms of degrees of privacy as well as of fact and fiction. For them, the latter isn't binary either: they add degrees of privacy by fictionalizing parts of what they present of themselves (see "Online aliases" and "Social networkers: Thinking about privacy").

But back to Emily's reference to "self-regulation." Isn't that where parenting comes in? Teaching (and hopefully modeling) self-regulation, as our rules for them are replaced by the trust they earn? It's not so much about shutting the blog or a compulsion down, maybe, as it is about providing perspective on privacy and self-respect. What has much more lasting value to them is helping them think about how broad their audience may actually (or ultimately) be, what image they're presenting of themselves now and when people encounter their content in the future, and how little control they have over what can happen to comments once online.

Related links

  • Author and professor Daniel Solove's The Future of Reputation
  • "The social Web's digital divide"
  • "Say Everything" in New York magazine
  • "The 'naked generation?'"
  • "Growing up in public"
  • "Nude photo-sharing: Q from a family that's been there"
  • "Generation Y has its own ideas of what privacy is" in the Naperville [Ill.] Sun

    Labels: , , , ,

  • Thursday, June 05, 2008

    Latin America's social Web is No. 1 in Latin America's social-networking scene, according to fresh figures from comScore, and social Web use as a whole is growing fast there. The number of unique visitors for the region has grown "from 53.6 million unique visitors last June, to 61.6 million this past April" (the latest figure available), cites comScore research as showing. Hi5 had 12.8 million visitors in April, "about a quarter of its 45 million monthly visitors around the world." Facebook (whose worldwide user figure for April was 116.4 million compared to MySpace's 115.7 million) was the fastest-growing SNS in the region and had 7.7 million Latin American visitors in April. One possible explanation for Hi5's popularity might be its linguistic tailoring for individual markets - e.g., "two new Spanish versions, for the Argentinian and Castilian dialects, with more dialect translations to come." It also launched a Brazilian Portuguese version in March to compete against [Google's] Orkut." Other growth sites to watch are Sonico, Batanga, and Vostu (for people to create their own social sites), VentureBeat reports. Having said all that, VentureBeat adds that blogging is still more popular than social networking in Latin America, with blogging services such as WordPress, Blogger, and local platforms "larger than Hi5 or any of its competitors," and mobile social networking is exploding (66% of Latin Americans own mobile phones, compared to the worldwide average of 46%).

    Labels: , , , , ,

    Europe to legislate social networking?

    The EU's Internet security agency is calling for legislation "to police social-networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace," InfoWorld reports. The director of the European Network and Information Security Agency said that social sites are "useful social tools," but suggested that EU law needs to cover photo-sharing online because "currently there is no need to get a person's consent in order to post a photo of them." He also said more public education is needed about how social networking works, pointing to the problem that "many people don't realize that it's almost impossible to erase material once it has appeared on the internet."

    Labels: , ,

    Wednesday, June 04, 2008

    Teen rape suspects plead guilty

    Four suspects ages 17 and 18 "pleaded guilty to raping a Seattle-area girl who later identified two of her attackers on her MySpace page," United Press International reports. The 16-year-old victim of the assault, which occurred last fall, met offline with the four after communicating with them online and was assaulted "on a darkened road." UPI adds that "the girl later described what had happened on her MySpace page," after which police "obtained a search warrant to capture email messages about the incident exchanged among the suspects."

    Labels: , , ,

    1 in 5 Oz youth cyberbullied

    Twenty-two percent of Australian youth have been harassed or bullied online, according to Australia's annually Youth Poll. Even so, "the internet plays a critical role in the lives of 15-to-20-year-olds, with 64% having a social network site, The Age cites the survey as finding. The 22% cyberbullying figure compares to about 33% in the US (for more US data, see "Cyberbullying: Clarity needed"). Not unlike in the US, probably, "body image was a major concern to 54 percent of the [Australian] youths surveyed, 46 percent of whom knew someone who had committed suicide or tried to do so."

    Labels: , ,

    Tuesday, June 03, 2008

    Finding bog snorkelers in MySpace

    Well, this isn't just about finding bog snorkelers (for the great unwashed, I'll get to what it is in a moment). It's about how easily journalists and other users of search engines (maybe parents too) can find people in any social-networking site. The article in shows how easily reporters can search social sites for case studies and background info and how easily that can turn up the most specific details about people's lives. Within 10 minutes the writer -who'd set out to "find private information" about someone under 16, including where s/he could be found - "was able to find the mobile number of a 15-year-old girl in South London, the address where a 17-year-old waitress is employed in Kent," etc. The article shows how to do advance searches, for example for "pro-ana" sites (supporting anorexia) or bog snorkelers, preferably in a general search engine such as Google, not in the social site itself: "If you are doing research on the fury caused by pro-anorexia sites on the web then you will find only a handful of 'pro-ana' ... references using Bebo's search tool. But more than 170 Bebo pages can be found in Google using this search string: inurl:profile inurl:bebo 'pro-ana'." For "bog snorkeling," 120 results in MySpace were turned up with this string: inurl:myspace inurl:fuseaction "bog snorkelling". As for what bog snorkeling is, it's a competitive sport - sometimes combined with running and mountain biking in a new kind of triathlon - see this page in Wikipedia for more.

    Labels: , , ,

    Monday, June 02, 2008

    Court rules on student's blog post

    A federal appeals court ruled that a high school in Connecticut did not violate a student's free-speech rights by disciplining her because of a blog commented posted from her home. The reason, reports the Hartford Courant, that "her blog post 'created a foreseeable risk of substantial disruption' at the school." The student was barred from serving as a class officer and speaking at graduation. The Courant added that the court "stopped short of declaring how far schools can go in regulating offensive Internet speech made off campus." Here's my original post about the Avery Doninger case."

    Labels: ,