Gossip, anger and attitude have long defined teenage communication, extending their tendrils through passed notes and meandering telephone calls as teens hash out happenings both mundane and profound In their lives: a friend’s detention, a glance from a cute girl, worries about an impending college application, a crush on an apparently oblivious guy. But with ever-greater access to the Internet, those conversations are occurring ever- more publicly as a growing number of teenagers create blobs, or web logs, and other online forums and more of their friends read and respond to those Journal entries.
While Instant Messaging on the tiny screen of a cell phone Is soul popular, In the past year or so, many teenagers have come to prefer the unlimited space of a blob. This “philosopher,” experts say, has an estimated 2 million to 4 million personal journals, with kids ages 13 to 19 maintaining about half of them. A majority of those teenagers from 53 percent to 67 percent, depending on the estimate are girls, according to David Huffier of Northwestern University, who researches the development of online youth communities, Including blobs. In taking on the Web-posting habits of their children, parents are picking what can be thorny fight.
Personal Web pages for the preadolescence and teenage set seem to have become as common as diaries and locker decorations once were. Of the world’s approximately 38 million “blobs,” or self-published Web pages, 52. 8 percent belong to those age 19 or younger, according to survey data from the Peruses Co. , a maker of Web-surveying software. By year’s end, the firm expects the total number of blobs on the Web to reach 53. 4 million. As technology-saws youths enlist computers in the timeless teen quest to establish identity, some adults feel the stakes are too high to accept It as Just another form or hash of self-expression.
In this camp, crime worries trump a desire to honor young people’s privacy. Internet stalkers have killed at least four minors in the past three years, and law enforcement authorities count about 5,000 reports of attempted sexual predation over the Internet in the past year, according to Parry Abaft, executive director of Wholesalers. Org, an Internet safety organization. Millions of teens who grew up with a mouse in one hand and a remote control in the other now pour out their hearts, minds and angst in personal online diaries.
And anyone with a connection including would-be predators can have a front- row view of this once-secretive teenage passion play. Clear their heads, stow their thoughts and get feedback from peers. Their blobs enable them to connect with friends old and current. And, given their penchant for latching onto new technology, it’s not surprising young people also are blobbing at a much higher rate than adults. These blobs are windows into young minds. It’s where they can post text, photos, even audio and video, about the minutiae of the everyday, their interests and dreams.