Students Blogging

I recently wrote about students being suspended for blogging at a Catholic high school in New Jersey. It seems that the dangers inherent in student blogging have been a hot topic recently in the education blogosphere. Ed Wonk writes about students in Texas who faced disciplinary action because of the content of their blogs. But what if their writing is actually putting them in danger? What if they are doing reckless things, such as posting their cell phone numbers, where they live, where they go to school, and lying about their ages? What if they’re getting involved with people who are dangerous? Bud the Teacher recently asked himself this very question.

Most of my students have MySpace.com sites. They are posting fake ages and admitting to drinking and drug use. They are posting provocative pictures of themselves. In other words, they are inviting the attention of a pedophile or a dangerous person like David Ludwig. My husband is a true crime writer for Court TV’s Crime Library website. He has become quite savvy at tracking down the weblogs or websites of both victims and perpetrators in the news over the last year, beginning with Rachelle Waterman, a sixteen-year-old girl who encouraged and aided her two 24-year-old boyfriends to kill her mother. Waterman had a blog at LiveJournal, another popular blog-hosting site. After that case, others cropped up: Joseph Edward Duncan, who kept a Blogspot blog, was a level-three pedophile who killed most of Shasta Groene’s family, including her brother Dylan, after he kidnapped the two of them in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; both Taylor Behl and her accused killer, Ben Fawley, had online presences; most recently, David Ludwig, an eighteen-year-old boy, is accused of murdering the parents of his girlfriend, Kara Beth Borden.

You can call it the uglier side of the blogosphere if you want to. Basically, I just wish my students would at least set their sites to be viewed only by friends, or make them private, which is easy enough to do. They probably don’t realize this, but websites can be cached and will be available for years after they thought they deleted content. While Google only make caches available for a short time, sites like the Internet Archive Wayback Machine make them available for years. Unless they know how to alter their HTML to prevent search engine robots from caching their sites and adding them to search engines, they can’t do much to prevent this from happening* (see suggestion below). I just wish my students would play it safe and look out for themselves. But they’re young, which often means they believe themselves invincible.

* If you have a website and want to do this, simply add the following code somewhere between the <head> and </head> tags: <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex,nofollow,noarchive”>.

I do not guarantee 100 % that this will prevent your page from being crawled by search engine robots, but it has worked for me in the past when I so desired.

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3 thoughts on “Students Blogging

  1. Dana:

    Thanks for sharing! Since you work with your students on blogging, how difficult has it been for you to model blogging best practices–such as protecting personal privacy, etc.? We've been exploring the topic of allowing students access to blog sites like MySpace/Xanga during the school day in my blog — <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.mguhlin.net/blog&quot; rel="nofollow"&gt <a href="http://;http://www.mguhlin.net/blog” target=”_blank”>;http://www.mguhlin.net/blog –and would love to have your opinion.

    This is a tough issue. On the one hand, we want them to write (hey, I want them to write about as much as possible). On the other, if they write about TOO much, we could all get in trouble and the consequences would not be good.

    More at:

    <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.mguhlin.net/blog/archives/2005/12/entry_756.htm&quot; rel="nofollow"&gt <a href="http://;http://www.mguhlin.net/blog/archives/2005/12/entry_756.htm” target=”_blank”>;http://www.mguhlin.net/blog/archives/2005/12/entry_756.htm

    Looking forward to reading your perspective on some of the questions asked,

    Miguel Guhlin

    <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.mguhlin.net/blog&quot; rel="nofollow"&gt <a href="http://;http://www.mguhlin.net/blog” target=”_blank”>;http://www.mguhlin.net/blog

  2. Dana, Thank you for the excellent entry on blogging and students. I teach courses that prepare students and administrators for some of the issues that technology will bring into their schools and this topic is picking up speed. You have touched on a perspective regarding the danger students are posing to themselves that I had not yet read. I'll be sure to raise that issue in future classes. All the best.

  3. Have you asked them why they don't? I think that what adults are missing is that youth *need* to be public. It's part of the coming of age process – figure out who you are by engaging with the public, by putting yourself at risks to learn the boundaries, by testing the norms. The problem is that youth have no access to public spheres because they're so locked down – 3 minute class passing, activity activity activity, dinner, homework, bed. Internet time is their hang-out time, their opportunity to actually play. And because we haven't let youth have any un-surveilled physical space, they've moved online.

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