November 15, 2005 4:00 AM PST
As teens embrace blogs, schools sound an alarm
- Related Stories
Study: Teenagers favor IM over e-mailNovember 10, 2005
Facebook's Greek dramaOctober 17, 2005
Landlines still trump Web for teen chitchatJuly 27, 2005
This is your brain on video gamesJune 23, 2005
When 'digital bullying' goes too farJune 22, 2005
Study: Online teens need more supervisionMay 23, 2005
(continued from previous page)
Cases similar to the one at N.C. State are cropping up across the country. Northern Kentucky University reportedly fined five students and put one on a one-year probation from campus housing after finding pictures, via Facebook, of the students with a keg of beer in their dorm room. The University of California at Santa Barbara recently warned that students living on campus can be disciplined for the content of their Facebook profiles. And Fisher College in Boston expelled a student this fall for posting threatening comments about a campus police officer on the site.
If you suspect your child is keeping you in the dark about Net use and might be in danger, you may decide to take more-serious steps. Some things to consider:
Search-engine sleuthing. It's possible to search on names, nicknames, cell phone numbers, screen names, IM and e-mail addresses. You could discover a blog, personal page or other site that makes your teen vulnerable.
Site seeing. A search won't turn up profiles on social networking sites. You can ask teachers about the most popular sites at school, and search them by e-mail address, town, school and name (though kids rarely use their real name).
Browser clues. You might review the "history" folder in your child's browser cache. Web-savvy teens can empty these, but you may be able to prevent that by password-protecting a PC's settings.
A passing glance. Other common advice is to place computers in high-traffic areas of the house to discourage questionable activities. But this can also dampen your children's enthusiasm for blogging and other creative Web pursuits, which isn't necessarily the goal.
When all else fails. A serious case may mean installing monitoring software, which captures every keystroke, including passwords; logs every Web site visited; records IM and chat room conversations; and captures screenshots. Spectorsoft makes one such program. But be careful: This may alienate your child and should probably only be done if you know he or she is at risk.
An official at N.C. State emphasized the public nature of the forums and stressed that students shouldn't assume such virtual material won't have consequences in the offline world.
"There is no reasonable expectation of privacy" on these sites, said Paul Cousins, director of the office of student conduct at N.C. State. "So I have no concerns about any university becoming aware of issues via Facebook and then following up on those concerns."
In addition to misconduct, schools are concerned about far more serious problems. For instance, Virginia Commonwealth University is developing new guidelines for student Internet usage after the suspected murder this fall of 17-year-old freshman Taylor Behl. Behl used MySpace and similar sites, and though it's unclear whether her online activities had any relation to her death, the case highlights an important issue, VCU's Lepley said.
"In the course of the investigation it became very apparent to university officials just how much information she had put out about herself online," Lepley said. "She and thousands of other people her age put out these Web pages and may not know how vulnerable it could make them."
High schools and middle schools are also keeping a wary eye on teen-oriented blogs and directories like MySpace, Xanga.com and LiveJournal. Some are banning students from visiting such sites while at school, and they're sending letters to parents urging them to monitor children's usage of the sites.
Among these schools are Juneau-Douglas High School in Juneau, Alaska, Mayfield High in Cleveland, Ohio, and Pope John XXIII Regional High School in Sparta, N.J. The Leander Independent School District in central Texas has a similar ban and recently sent letters to the parents of hundreds of middle and high school students, urging them to keep an eye on their children's Internet use. The superintendent of Cape Henlopen school district in southern Delaware also sent such a letter.
20 commentsJoin the conversation! Add your comment