Jun 02 2012

People think the Internet is a place where teens can get into trouble.

They worry about what teenagers might be exposed to online, who might try to contact them, and acts of bullying. There is no doubt the openness of the Internet can bring risks to young people. But supervised participation in blogging is thought to be beneficial.

A recent study makes a case for how the Internet, despite its faults, is also a great space for teenagers to improve their mental health by reaching out to a responsive community while blogging.

Teens often feel isolated.
Supervised blogging helps them connect.

A team of researchers set out to see whether blogging could help alleviate social distress and low self-esteem. Over the course of 10 weeks, a group of students kept a blog. The students who had public blogs with space for comments, and who wrote about distress in their lives, saw the most mental improvement over that period. On the other hand, students who kept private diaries with no comments, or who never wrote about any of their difficulties, saw little improvement.

The study, detailed by the Univeristy of Haifa, Israel says:

“Previous research shows that simply writing about personal misfortune can be healing—   …The new study, however, finds that online writing may be even more helpful, at least for teenagers who feel isolated and have difficulty socializing.  Israeli researchers studied 161 teens (aged 14-17) who were experiencing significant social anxiety and distress in interacting with their peers.”

University of Haifa, Israel, experiments show blogging can
integrate teens into supportive on-line communities, while
affirming positive responses to life difficulties.

“All of the writing groups showed significant improvement after ten weeks of blogging, as rated by their own reports of feeling better and socializing more and by experts who did not know their group assignments. The bloggers said they were more self confident, had better self-esteem and were emotionally more comfortable with social situations than they had been before they began writing. Those who blogged on sites that included comments, however, benefited most, and reported feeling less social distress, gaining more self-esteem and engaging in more social activity in real life. The improvements continued two months later, at the study’s last follow up.

The authors write, “It seems that the characteristics of the Internet and the qualities of expressive writing can be maximized by blogging. A blog can provide the unique combination of a comfortable space for self-expression, one that is both intimate and authentic, with an interactive social environment that is popular among adolescents.”

The experiment helps to show that public writings made up of personal content can help boost self-esteem of the writer. This is especially true if the writer uses the platform to divulge how he or she is responding to life’s difficulties, and allows for space for peers to respond to the writings. Blogging can also integrate the writer into a supportive online community. This can be incredibly helpful during teen years, when many young people feel alienated.

Although negative Internet content is detrimental,
supervised blogging can allow an exchange of peer
ideas leading to community.

Some parents may be concerned about negative conduct online. Fortunately, a separate study has found that there is probably little reason to worry about that. The aim of the study was to see what teens tend to write about if they keep a blog. Most content was positive, researchers reported. Teenagers usually wrote about school activities they had enjoyed and how they had spent time with friends and family. There was little talk of risky actions, like skipping class or breaking the law.

When it comes to young people and the Internet, it is always important to remain watchful for negative information and interactions to which they might be exposed. However, excessive caution might prevent teenagers from experiencing the positive side of online networks. Blogging, in particular, seems to be a positive way for that demographic to discuss their feelings and the events of the day, all the while better connecting with peers. It can help make otherwise alienated teenagers feel like they’re part of a community.

And, hey! I know blogging makes me feel better.

I have steadily increased connecting with my
peer community on BlogHer.com!


NaBloPoMo June 2012

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