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Blogs let teens express themselves in positive ways

By Sarah Klein

A recent study appears to support the theory that cyber friendship and online activity in general is more helpful than harmful for teens.

A research team from Ohio State University examined the posts of 100 teens from around the country on the blogging site Xanga. The goal of the study was to find out whether these unchaperoned teens were blogging about risky or dangerous behaviors like skipping school or experimenting with drugs or sex.

"We looked at every quote, and the kids wrote about very few problem behaviors," the study's author and associate professor of social work Dawn Anderson-Butcher said in a press release. "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."

Anderson-Butcher and her students found that the teens blogged about studying, school, family, video games, extracurricular activities like dance or sports, and even religion. Interestingly, "boredom" was the most common complaint of the teens; Anderson-Butcher says this isn't such a bad thing, considering that they were blogging about being bored, rather than engaging in risky behaviors to occupy their time.

Of course, Xanga is less popular than before, and many teens have moved their online experiences to Facebook. But having a more personal online journal, or an appropriate public blog on a hosting site like Blogger or Wordpress, could be a relationship-building tool, says Anderson-Butcher, and may even be an opportunity for mentoring.

Here are five examples of some popular teen blogs:

  • Sea of Shoes – Nominated for a 2010 Bloggie award, this fashion-forward teen details shopping trips with her mom in abundant photos and never forgets to include shots of her own outfits each day.
  • Style Rookie – This budding fashion maven was profiled by the New York Times when she was only 12. The Chicago native – now 14 – continues to update her blog with reviews of fashion shows, links to fashion articles, and pictures of her own wardrobe.
  • Oh Clementine – The author describes herself as "a rambly Canadian teenager, aspiring political journalist, and socially awkward geek." Strong opinions on school, work and life in general.
  • Foodie at Fifteen – Nick, a Philadelphia high-schooler, started this food blog at 15. He's now 17, and continues to update on his experiments in the kitchen.
  • 17 and Baking – Elissa, also nominated for a 2010 Bloggie, shares photos of her baked goods, and details high school life, including her feelings about the college application process.

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