Teens' blogging shows little risky behaviour

Last Updated: Fri, Mar 26, 2010 06:30 hrs

Washington: A new Ohio State University study of 100 teen bloggers from around the US found that a majority used blogs to develop relationships with their peers and build a sense of community, rather than to admit misbehaviour.

The research has appeared in the current issue of the Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal.

According to Dawn Anderson-Butcher, associate professor of social work at Ohio State, the findings suggests that blogging could be used therapeutically to help troubled teens express themselves in positive ways.

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Anderson-Butcher and her students analysed blog posts from the public Web site Xanga (http://www.xanga.com/) for a month, to find out whether teens blogged about risky behaviours, such as skipping school, doing drugs, or having sex.

The researchers found most teens in the study blogged about positive behaviours, such as studying, participating in school activities, spending time with family, and going to church. Anderson-Butcher said: "We looked at every quote, and the kids wrote about very few problem behaviors.

"They showed a lot of creative expression through poetry, lyrics and song. It was very exciting-and for me, positive-to see the typical developmental activities that they were writing about in their blogs."

While the researchers couldn't know whether parents were supervising the Xanga blogs used in this study, the teens were clearly writing blog entries as messages to their peers.

Among the most common positive activities the teens described were playing video games (65 percent); watching television (45 percent); doing homework (40 percent); going to lessons, such as music, dance, or martial arts (38 percent); browsing the Internet (29 percent); and participating in faith-based activities (22 percent).

Anderson-Butcher said even the teens' most common complaint - boredom (65 percent) - was not such a bad thing if they were blogging about it instead of engaging in risky behaviours.

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She said: "Think about the other things they could be doing. We know that when kids are bored, mostly between the hours of 3:00-6:00 p.m., that's when they're most at risk for using alcohol or having sex, for example. It's the time when their parents are working and they are often unsupervised. But instead these youth sought out social expression via Xanga.

"So that's definitely a positive. They're filling their time with this social networking."

Some teens posted to Xanga every day, while others only posted once or twice during the month used in the study.

Teens also described some negative feelings, such as feeling blue (30 percent); feeling angry (28 percent); and feeling like they don't fit in (22 percent). They complained that they didn't want to do their homework (16 percent), and worried about getting bad grades (11 percent).

Very few mentioned cutting class (8 percent); using drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes (6 percent); or having sex (1 percent).

Anderson-Butcher firmly believes parents should supervise their kids' blogs, even making such supervision a condition of blogging. That way, parents can notice problems when they come up in the blog.

The blog data in this study came from 2007. Xanga is less popular with the majority of teens now "micro-blogging" their activities on Facebook.

Anderson-Butcher said she cannot replicate the study on Facebook, however, because unlike Xanga, it offers safety measures to keep strangers from reading kids' profiles.

She said: "That's a good thing in relation to privacy. It just means we aren't able to access the data as freely."

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