David Huffaker of Georgetown has done a pretty comprehensive study of teenage blogging habits that reveals some interesting results. The study is titled “Gender Similarities and Differences in Online Identity and Language Use Among Teenage Bloggers.” It’s quite lengthy, but here are a couple of graphs that are particularly relevant.
Overall, the results indicate that teenagers reveal a considerable amount of personal information in their blogs, including name, age, and location, as well as contact information in the form of an email address, an instant messenger name or a link to personal homepage. The content of blogs typically reflects what is expected to impact a teenager’s life, such as school, intimate relationships, sexual identity and even music. While almost half of teenage blogs are abandoned, active blogs demonstrate high levels of loyalty in terms of frequency of posts (daily or weekly) and length of posts (which average 2000 words per page).
A little less than half of all teenage bloggers use explicit language in their blog posts, perhaps because there is more privacy in a blog or fewer consequences for using such language in a blog rather than in a school or home, or because this language is a replication of the common expressions used in the real-world of a teenager.
Interestingly, gender use of blogs is more alike than different. Perhaps blogs are easy to use for both males and females, or perhaps this generation of Internet users is becoming more adept at online communication and interaction. For
The findings of this study also suggest that blogs might be a consideration for use as an educational technology, especially as a classroom application. Because males and females are writing equal numbers of words in this study, and the average post exceeds 2000 words, blogs may be an avenue for promoting literacy and language skills. Males and females are essentially telling stories in their blogs, which is an important catalyst for language development (Huffaker, D., 2004); therefore, blogs may be a useful tool for encouraging storytelling in the classroom. Furthermore, because blogs are situated on the Internet, they can be accessed anytime and anywhere, and utilized beyond the school walls, which may encourage the idea of lifelong learning (Huffaker, D., 2003).
Blogs are used as extensions of real-world identities, as a means of exhibition, or possibly, as a way to share and connect with the community around a teenager. Because blogs are easy to use, free to the public, and encourage self-expression and self-presentation, their application in educational environments is worth considering. Blogs enhearten authors and empower voices. They make an excellent venue for developmental growth, exploration and expression of identity, and allow youth to build a relationship with the community around them.
Good stuff. It’s great to see the research start to come forward on what exactly it is that students do and don’t do in these spaces, and to think about the implications for our classroom.