Teens, Schools, and Blogs [en]

Teenagers are getting in trouble in France for saying insulting things about their teachers on their blogs.

[fr] Un article dans Le Monde et un passage sur France 3 pour les ados virés de l'école à  cause de leur skyblog. Cet article fait un peu le tour de la mauvaise presse de Skyblog, et de la problèmatique générale des ados et des blogs telle que je la vois.

As I mentioned yesterday, the French press is talking about the fact that more and more school kids are being chucked out of school for having insulted their teachers on their skyblogs. After the article in Libération on Tuesday, today we have another (very similar) article in Le Monde, and coverage on French national TV midday news.

No big surprise for me. First of all, despite employing three full-time moderators (my sources will remain confidential), Skyblog’s prime interest remains money, and is in no way trying to provide a service where teenagers can be constructive, learn, and be protected.

This isn’t the first nasty blogging story they are involved with: a few months ago, two teenagers reportedly commited suicide after having announced it on their skyblog. A few weeks later, when the documentary for Mise au Point was being prepared, the journalist was investigating an episode in Geneva where racist statements on skyblogs leading to real fights made a youth centre decide to forbid access to the platform from their computers. Skyblog refused to comment, when he contacted them to enquire about their moderation policy. As I stated in my interview after that, moderation is technically possible. You only need to decide to attribute sufficient ressources to do it properly, which means it must be pretty high up on your company’s priority list. 🙂

The two incidents I’ve had first-hand accounts of in local schools involved skyblogs, too.

The second reason I’m not too surprised this kind of issue is coming up is that teens are left to explore the internet and blogging on their own, for the most part. Parents don’t know much about what is going on online, though they probably do know about e-mails and search engines. I remember an article (unavailable now, thanks to paying archives) which stated that many consumers of child porn are in fact teenagers. Teachers don’t know much more. Of course, schools do the usualy prevention stuff (don’t talk to strangers, don’t give your name, beware of porn and pedophiles), which is good — but it is not sufficient.

Teenagers are content providers on the internet. They are putting loads of their photographs online. (I’ve noticed that the representation teens around here have of a weblog is in fact a “skyblog”, meaning an online photo album where friends can comment.) They are talking about themselves. For them, blogs are an extension of recess talks, text messages, and MSN messenger.

As I’ve said before and will keep saying, blogging is good, teens need to “learn” it, but they need guidance — and for that, they need to come in contact with adults who know what they are talking about. And we need people amongst those designing the “internet prevention” modules who are experienced bloggers.

The nature of the internet is tricky when it comes to privacy (I mean, we as adults have a hard enough time dealing with some of these issues!) and teens tend to consider that what they put online is personal, in a sense that school shouldn’t meddle with it. They don’t realise they can be held accountable by their school or justice for silly things they write on the net, even when it is done outside school hours.

11 thoughts on “Teens, Schools, and Blogs [en]

  1. >I’ve noticed that the representation teens around here have of a weblog is in fact a “skyblog”, meaning an online photo album where friends can comment.
    I completely agree with this. Recently, when I told my young brother about a new article on my blog asked me, after visiting : “but, that’s not a real blog, isn’t it ? There’s not a lot of photos there” :/

    Maybe, that kind of teenagers should have a look at the date of the old articles of the “classical” weblogs to see that the “original” isn’t theirs :).

    Well, that’s certainly evolution, eh ? :o)

  2. I think that’s also where school and guest speakers can come in. School and workshops on weblogs can give those kids a chance to experiment that a blog can be much more than “just” an online photo album.

  3. Pingback: Barzi.net
  4. The “problem” of students making jokes with teachers is not new. Back in 1998, my girlfriend and other students at her school had a fake photo of one of their teachers, in a leather combo, some of his very precious organs being quite visible. The file was called 16inches.jpg, and was on the web.
    Maybe the thing that changed most is that now that teachers start to be able to browse the web, they discover what their students have been able to do during all these years. So, logically, we can allege that students will always be able to do more than what teachers can discover (I’m not talking about quantity, but skill), which makes all this quite obsolete.
    Start condemning public offenses towards teachers, and they will migrate to secret web sites, etc. Even with “perfect” teachers, this kind of offense seems unavoidable to me, so let’s wonder whether it’s better to have it on a public website, or on a private one, but probably more offensive.

  5. I agree, kids have always made fun of teachers, and always will. Until now, they usually did it at recess, with their friends, by sms or in secret journals.

    Publishing such things on the web takes them to another level: publication (!). I think the basic problem is a misconception of what the web is, as a public space.

    What is acceptable said in a private audience of 4-5 people becomes unacceptable when widely published.

    As I said to the classes I talked to on the matter: if you really want to write stuff online that your teachers/parents/grandparents shouldn’t see, if you want to say how much your school sucks (we know all schools suck) and make fun of your teachers, then you need to make your website/weblog password protected.

    This probably won’t protect you if you’re sued for libel (I need to check this), but at least it might prevent things from blowing up out of proportion.

  6. Je réponds en français. Mon anglais est trop minable.

    A propos des “website/weblog password protected”…

    N’oublions pas que ce qui rend Skyblog attirant, c’est la simplicité technique. L’immense majorité des ados, contrairement à  ce qu’affirment leurs parents dépassés, ne sont que des tanches en informatique. Il ne mesurent ni les conséquences de leurs actes sur Internet, ni la technologie pour s’en protéger. Alors tant que Skyblog n’aura pas mis un “accès par mot de passe” par défaut pour la création des blogs, rien ne changera.
    De toute façon, ce qui attire les ados (tous comme nous, bloggers adultes!), c’est que potentiellement, leur blog peut être lu par des millions de personnes. Mais de nouveau, il faut relativiser. Ces skyblogs si licencieux ne dépassent en général pas quelques visites par mois.

  7. J’ai suivi la discussion avec beaucoup d’interêt. Je viens d’avoir un problème de mauvais usage sur un blog de spérimentation (classe d’anglais). Je suis en tout cas pour l’information et la prévention. Miex que ça ce passe avec un prof qui peut les prévenir et leur expliquer, plutôt qu’il fassent ça en manière autonome et sans guide à  la maison (la plus part des parents patoge dans la plus totale ignorance au sujet, et malheureusement ignorent aussi les éventuelles conséquences). Merci Stephanie pour ton BLOG. Patrizia

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