Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cyberstalking Resources

The Director of UCF Victim Services emailed this link to me and I thought it was so relevant and useful that I should share it here. The Canadian Clearinghouse on Cyberstalking includes fact sheets, resources for research, and information for people who may be victims of cyberstalking. Thought you might be interested in checking it out or using it in the future for research or assistance or resources.

While the cartoon below is humorous, it is important to acknowledge that stalking and cyberstalking are no joke and are serious concerns to be aware of and educate others about (which is what the website seeks to provide--information and resources).

Spoiler Alert: Week 12 Camgirls

As I began reading Camgirls, I was immediately struck by the concept of identity formation online, and “digital drag,” mentioned in the first chapter. Senft writes, “people were fascinated by what I call ‘digital drag’: performances in which people (almost always men) attempted to represent themselves in cyberspace as something other than their offline gender, sexuality, race, or ability. Back then, the notion that “On the internet nobody knows you’re a dog” (to quote the caption of a well-known New Yorker cartoon) was particularly attractive to those limited by sexism, racism, ageism, and disability discrimination in the offline world. That said, digital drag was never restricted solely to society’s ‘others.’ The idea of the internet as a limited space had broad mainstream appeal to all sorts of users. Internet ethnographer Sherry Turkle even lauded the practice as a way to work through postmodern ideas of the self” (35). This particular passage reminded me of a mocumentary I watched where a young man begins an online relationship with a woman who he has never met before. The woman sends him pictures, videos, and audioclips which all present her as a beautiful, twenty-something singer/songwriter. The man quickly falls for her as any gullible person might, believing her every word. She even goes so far as to introduce him to her family members. They plan to eventually meet but when he asks her about it she is elusive and vague. Finally by a fluke occurrence he is sent to a city close to where she lives and decides to pay a surprise visit. The story that follows is surprising, but it does not surprise the viewer to learn that she is not who she said she was.

Senft cyber theory implies that identity formation for women online, “helps destabilize feminism’s too easy dependence on identity politics.” For many women, operating webcams online enables a separate identity from the one they’re allowed in daily life. Many of the women interviewed in Camgirls admittedly interact with their viewers in giving them what they want, whether it is more chat time, stills, or visual performance. Some claim that they’re only performing as themselves and that their reality is meant to stand alone as performance in itself. In all cases, the women are aware of at the very least an imagined audience. I think that by being aware of this imagined audience women are naturally driven to perform online, it is only through their mediated interactions that they give in to viewers’ desires. As I read, I struggled with the idea of webcams as a tool for identity formation because of the potential for disaster. Rather than rant on with my own opinion, I would like to ask the question:” At what point does a false identity online become detrimental?” Is it when it begins to effect other people in negative ways? Do we have an obligation to admit who we are in “real life” when we present ourselves as someone else online? Why or why not?

I’m going to post the trailer of the movie I was talking about. I spoiled a bit of it but it’s still good if you have the time to watch it!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

America the Beautiful (??)

I'm going to start showing this in my Girls Studies and related classes...but you can catch it now on Hulu! It's a powerful documentary that you and your friends and your sisters and brothers and friends' sisters and brothers should watch.... so go!!

America the Beautiful

UCF student aspires to be first social media model

Central Florida Future
Orlando is taking the fashion world by storm — through Facebook.
UCF junior Marissa Kay is one of 100 Central Florida models who will be competing for one thing and one thing only — to become the world's first social-media supermodel through the Supermodel Project.
"Social media is what it is all about right now," Kay said. "Everything is about networking and meeting people, and Facebook is just the place."
Here is the link for the rest of the article.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Internet Killed the Video Star: Rebecca Black

So, some guy passed me today singing "Friday", which I will post in case you haven't seen it. (Then you should watch Conan O'Brien's parody). I saw an article about how much money Rebecca Black is getting from the videos and another one about Lady Gaga defending her right to sing about friday and make a video and basically do whatever the heck Rebecca wants, because doing whatever she wants is Lady Gaga's favorite hobby.

There are articles like this that hold the more popular opinion that she and her cohorts on the same record label, which my roommate likes to call something like "White rich-girl records", are cheesy and pathetic. While, I totally see the appeal of writing a song and making a music video before you can drive, I'm kind of on Team Cheesy.

At the same time, thinking about Rebecca Black in terms of the things we're learning in this class, I'm kind of siding with Lady Gaga. While, I don't know if I would ever call her a genius... why should Justin Beiber be able to take a shot at it and not Rebecca? I would be more impressed if she actually produced and posted everything instead of a label probably run by adult men who could care less as long as the money's rolling in. But she is reaching a certain level of fame. And no matter how "ironically" people say they are doing something, they're still doing it. Win for Rebecca.

CBS News says "Facebook Depression" a new risk for teens

(AP) CHICAGO -- Add "Facebook depression" to potential harms linked with social media, an influential doctors' group warns, referring to a condition it says may affect troubled teens who obsess over the online site.
Researchers disagree on whether it's simply an extension of depression some kids feel in other circumstances, or a distinct condition linked with using the online site.

But there are unique aspects of Facebook that can make it a particularly tough social landscape to navigate for kids already dealing with poor self-esteem, said Dr. Gwenn O'Keeffe, a Boston-area pediatrician and lead author of new American Academy of Pediatrics social media guidelines.

With in-your-face friends' tallies, status updates and photos of happy-looking people having great times, Facebook pages can make some kids feel even worse if they think they don't measure up.

It can be more painful than sitting alone in a crowded school cafeteria or other real-life encounters that can make kids feel down, O'Keeffe said, because Facebook provides a skewed view of what's really going on. Online, there's no way to see facial expressions or read body language that provide context.

The guidelines urge pediatricians to encourage parents to talk with their kids about online use and to be aware of Facebook depression, cyberbullying, sexting and other online risks. They were published online Monday in Pediatrics.

Abby Abolt, 16, a Chicago high school sophomore and frequent Facebook user, says the site has never made her feel depressed, but that she can understand how it might affect some kids.

"If you really didn't have that many friends and weren't really doing much with your life, and saw other peoples' status updates and pictures and what they were doing with friends, I could see how that would make them upset," she said.

"It's like a big popularity contest - who can get the most friend requests or get the most pictures tagged," she said.

Also, it's common among some teens to post snotty or judgmental messages on the Facebook walls of people they don't like, said Gaby Navarro, 18, a senior from Grayslake, Illinois. It's happened to her friends, and she said she could imagine how that could make some teens feel depressed.

"Parents should definitely know" about these practices," Navarro said. "It's good to raise awareness about it."

The academy guidelines note that online harassment "can cause profound psychosocial outcomes," including suicide. The widely publicized suicide of a 15-year-old Massachusetts girl last year occurred after she'd been bullied and harassed, in person and on Facebook.

"Facebook is where all the teens are hanging out now. It's their corner store," O'Keeffe said.

She said the benefits of kids using social media sites like Facebook shouldn't be overlooked, however, such as connecting with friends and family, sharing pictures and exchanging ideas.

"A lot of what's happening is actually very healthy, but it can go too far," she said.

Dr. Megan Moreno, a University of Wisconsin adolescent medicine specialist who has studied online social networking among college students, said using Facebook can enhance feelings of social connectedness among well-adjusted kids, and have the opposite effect on those prone to depression.

Parents shouldn't get the idea that using Facebook "is going to somehow infect their kids with depression," she said.

The link to the article on the website is here.

For Tween Stars, It’s Different When You’re A Girl

From Jezebel:!5786310/tween-star-standards-are-different-when-youre-a-girl

Friday, March 25, 2011

Media Mind Games - Beware of the Internet?

Before the internet, there was a certain kind of safety people would expect for their children. Keeping minors safe on the internet is a lot easier said than done in this day and age. As Edwards mentions in the text, "Victims, Villians, and Vixens", the media plays a giant role in helping create a false perception of the dangers of the internet. Sure, the internet isn't a place for minors (most of the time), but I feel like as long as kids know the basics, then they should be safe. The internet is sort of like real life, and needs to be treated as such. Many kids that end up victims of online predators were indulging in conversations with strangers. And similar to the rules in the real world, no one should be talking to people they don't know. Society is always ready to fuel the fire of the media and shed a negative light on anything that produces a corrupt outcome.

For instance, the media had portrayed the infamous Craigslist killer as a man targeting women on the internet, when in fact, he was targeting women who were soliciting sex on the internet. And due to media uproar, Craigslist was forced to shut down it's romance section because of these murders. Now, is Craigslist an unsafe place on the internet? Not really, but just like prostitution in the street, women who use the internet to sell sex run a high risk of dangerous activity, and meeting up with shady individuals. And contrary to what the media would like us to believe, according to "Moral Panic about Girls Online", since the early 90s, the percentage of girl victims of online encounters has declined. Young girls are at no more of a risk online than anybody else, even though the media constantly shows girls being abducted or victims of online encounters. We have a responsibility when it comes to using the internet, and keeping children safe while using the internet. We can't trust the media to tell us what is dangerous, from what is not, because their job is to catch people's attention, and in most cases, the most negative news is the best news. No one wants to hear about the millions of kids who don't use the internet to meet up with strangers, instead we always hear about isolated incidents. What we should understand from this weeks readings is that we need to educate those who are at a greater risk of being taken advantage of on the net. And that's not just young girls, it's young boys as well as the elderly, and anyone in between who isn't familiar with the ins and outs of the internet.

LOL and OMG made it in the Dictionary....?? omg!

Thought this was interesting....

'♥,' 'OMG,' and 'LOL' added to the dictionary

It's difficult to avoid letting things such as ♥, OMG, and LOL slip into our text messages and emails, but at least we can now excuse that by pointing out that those are in fact terms acknowledged by the authorities of the English language.

In the latest update of the Oxford English Dictionary, there are a whole new batch of silly words and definitions including several initialisms — abbreviations consisting of the initial letters of expressions — made popular through their frequent use in text messages, tweets, or emails.

The experts at Oxford Dictionaries Online explain that the initialisms added to the dictionary are "noteworthy" and even happen to be "found outside of electronic contexts" at times, and we believe them. After all, how could these language authorities not add initialisms and words like this to the dictionary without a good reason:

  • couch surfing
  • ego-surfing
  • hentai
  • la-la land
  • LOL
  • meep
  • muffin top
  • OMG
  • party-crashing
  • wassup

Our favorite thing in this entire update though? A tweak to the definition of 'heart':

♥ to heart

The new sense added to heart v. in this update may be the first English usage to develop via the medium of T-shirts and bumper-stickers. It originated as a humorous reference to logos featuring a picture of a heart as a symbol for the verb love, like that of the famous ‘I ♥ NY’ tourism campaign. Our earliest quote for this use, from 1984, uses the verb in ‘I heart my dog’s head’, a jokey play on bumper stickers featuring a heart and a picture of the face of a particular breed of dog (expressing a person’s enthusiasm for, say, shih-tzus) which itself became a popular bumper sticker. From these beginnings, heart v. has gone on to live an existence in more traditional genres of literature as a colloquial synonym for ‘to love’.

Yes, that's 'wassup' with this month's modifications of the Oxford English Dictionary. Let's hope that next month brings us definitions for more initialisms such as OMGWTF, ROFL, LMAO, and KIT.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Teens, Trust, and Sex Ed Online

Teens, Trust, and Sex Ed Online

This short piece is interesting in light of our readings (esp. around sexuality and the discussions). Scarleteen is mentioned, which is great:) How do you negotiate this article with the readings we discussed a couple weeks ago? Thoughts?

A girl's scary life online

A girl’s life online is a really important read for teenagers and parents alike. Katies story is disturbingly realistic and with the online world growing more abundant everyday, it is important to keep the dangers of the internet in the back of our minds because the truth is that they do still exist. Like many young adolescent’s, Katie built her ideal image of beauty based on what she read in the magazines and saw on t.v. This is a huge wake up call for media outlets worldwide to realize they are sending incorrect messages to the youth of today. I remember feeling very similar to Katie as a middle schooler, and wanting to be both skinnier and taller to look like the models that I admired. Luckily for me, I did not fall into the same trap as Katie did with an online predator.

The meeting between Katie and Mark really got my heart pumping. I was nervous and anxious from the second she knocked on the door. I got extremely creeped out when Mark asked Katie to check out the hotel bathroom with him. “He waited until I started moving and then placed his hand on my back to direct me. No one had ever steered me like that before. And with his touch I suddenly realized how uncomfortable I felt with him.” (92) As I read this quote I literally felt like I was in the room with both of them. I couldn’t imagine actually going through what Katie was experiencing. Part of me has sympathy for her and the other part of me thinks she was foolish and made some terrible decisions. Either way, there is a lesson to be learned from Katie’s actions.

As I read the book I payed attention to my emotions towards Katie and Mark. I knew that if I were not an adult and rather a teenager I would have viewed everything differently, but I couldn’t help but look at the book objectively. A huge feeling of relief came over me when Katie’s mom knocked on the hotel room door and practically saved her life. However, I couldn’t imagine if I would feel the same way if I was in Katie’s shoes. I can understand why she was humiliated and embarrassed. However, this was truly a miracle and one can only hope that if their kids were in the same position, they would have the opportunity to rescue them as well.

Overall, this book was very grounding and reminds me to always be cautious online. There has been so many developments with the internet that people get absorbed by all of the excitement and forget about the true hazards. I think that literature pieces like this one are important for all generations to keep a realistic outlook regarding the internet.

Monday, March 21, 2011


On July 7, 1993, 27 year-old singer Mia Zapata, a member of Seattle band The Gits, was strangled. Less than two hours before her body was found, she had spent an evening in her local pub - with many friends.

Seven Year Bitch drummer Valerie Agnew tried to talk this out with other friends, and discovered they, too, felt both fears and conflicts. "We were all like Mia, we were all streetwise. But if it happened to her, it could happen to us."

One thought came back over and over to them: "If she knew how to throw a punch, would she be here?"

"They just said it was bad and demanded I accept that view."

I totally agree that in situations of internet predators, girls are seen as victims, police as sole heroes, and eliminating basic right to privacy as the much-needed solution. I think a show like Dateline’s How to Catch a Predator and other news media do perpetuate these social norms and how girls and predators alike deviate from them.
I’m not sure what other literature on the subject is out there and I get the feeling this is an early text from the girls’ perspective either way, but I do think that parents and young girls and people in authority have to read this book. Not because it is incredible in presenting anything they don’t know from the news, but that it is insightful in giving so much more context to how these things happen. Without context of how a girl like Katie, as an adolescent is looking for an equal and for a deeper relationship, how Mark builds a relationship with her over months of constant communication, people have this idea that predators show up with a pack of beer and are easily identifiable as clear lunatics instead of crafty deceivers or even men who just think that kind of behavior is acceptable or something that can't be helped.
I kept thinking about the book Lolita when I read this and the perception people have of it. That novel was written in the 50s and when I would summarize it for people while reading it they still found it totally provocative. I think a lot of what allows people to be predators, namely men, is the way we as a society don’t understand and don’t want to try and remedy the thought process that goes into how predators think and why mainly men think they are entitled to certain actions or reactions from females, especially girls. I think Tarbox’s book shows through her not wanting to ruin his life and being concerned about how they had both been traumatized by the incident that they did undeniably have a relationship and that even though it was manipulative and deceptive, it had been very solidly established.
The other side of the whole Lolita coin is the victimization and blaming of the girls involved. When I was reading Tarbox’s book, I was infuriated at the way people were treating her. I thought it was legitimate that some of the problem was probably that her family and community didn’t know how to react or what to do with her or how to understand, but it didn’t seem that anyone except her friend Ashley was trying. I wanted to slap everyone too. I think a lot of the problem is the victimization. Tarbox put me right back at 13 when it came to making decisions based on building esteem and avoiding things that inflamed insecurities, but more than that was remembering how much people condescended to me at that age. Treating the girl like a victim and a dishonorable deviant doesn’t help anyone. I did find some of her decisions naive though, from my own experiences online. I was calling it off much earlier in the book than Katie was. Still, it’s clear she knew that what she was doing was dangerous. I was also mad about the girl who was assembling bombs in the “Victims, Villains, and Vixens” chapter was seen as a deviant, a sick girl who had something wrong with her. If that girl were a grown man or even just male she would not only be seen, aside from being criminal or crazy, as in a way very intelligent and rebellious in a good sense. Instead she’s some parent’s problem, there’s no way she could have realized her actions.

I think if parents really understood better what the contexts of those kind of relationships were like, police and the government wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) have any say in a person’s privacy. Honestly child blocks are bad enough, the same way censorship can be. Instead of ushering safety, they just cut off all contact, something repulsive and unreasonable online, especially for adolescents and adolescent girls who use it so heavily for communication. I remember I started emailing a guy I met in a chat room feeling exactly what Katie was, knowing very well the situation I was putting myself into. My mom somehow found out or saw an email and told me she would rather I met someone my own age any other way (I wasn’t even allowed to date technically). I suddenly felt the impact of what I was getting into. That nipped it in the bud for me and I’m glad my mother said it in a way that showed concern about the danger instead of just creating a stigma about who I could or couldn’t talk to, my feelings for boys, or what I could and could not do. In fact, I went into chat rooms a lot and talked to strangers provocatively at will that my parents and most of my friends didn’t know about (I took better precautions than Katie) and to this day I’ve never heard anyone REALLY ask someone, myself included of course, why they want that relationship, how it makes them feel, what the interactions are like. It’s so strange how differently we treat online relationships from in-real-life ones. They should be treated differently, not with stigma of what we see in the news, but with a new set of questions and and intent to understand.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Danger is Subjective.

In a class that elucidates specifically why the Internet democratizes our experiences in this brave new world, I wasn't sure what a unit on Internet Crime would yield. I anticipated the tempering of some of the more outlandish fears and perhaps a cautionary tale, which was the bulk of the material, but I was very surprised at some of the more sophisticated connections the texts made. The section in "Victims, Villans, and Vixens" about the power of the news media in shaping public perception seemed very akin to the beginning of the "High Tech or High Risk," in that they both highlight that the news media uses scare tactics to bring out the latent fears held by white, middle class America. It recalled for me white missing woman syndrome, that the way the media prioritizes what is important to portray as urgent news usually caters to what the privileged middle class deems appropriate (in the latter article, they illustrate this with the discussion about the PSA).

In codifying Internet crime as absolute truth in such a way as to make certain corners of the internet, such as chat rooms, completely synonymous with danger, I believe that shows like "To Catch a Predator" are capitalizing on the mass hysteria engendered by giving young people, especially girls, the ability to seek out agency in this cutting-edge fashion. Girls are always being portrayed as "at risk," and if they are ever on the other end of an unsavory story, the media is very quick to jump on them as the risk, in a way that I don't believe is gender-neutral. The sensationalized accounts of "cooking up drugs" come across gossipy, in that it highlights the failings of a female subject as so much more egregious than a male of similar budding criminal stature, as made obvious by the fact that it warranted media coverage at all. Girls aren't supposed to do that, right? They're supposed to be above such low pursuits, and if not, it is cause for serious concern, as one bad apple could spoil the whole barrel. Or something. I don't know, I find the whole perspective illogical. Of course, while girls are the subject of this class, the advent of technology as a contribution to risky behavior is not isolated only to them. Videogames and certain music were brought to task after Columbine, as though cultural products can be blamed instead of a system that summarily failed its troubled teens. The media contributed to this hysteria in a not at all negligible fashion, and this should be noted when examining how it constructs the relationship between girls and similar mediums.

One thing these readings illuminated for me that I had never before considered was that girls rarely offer their side in these stories, that their accounts, even in the form of first-person narrative, are always skewed by the media's heavy-handed slant. If we were, for example, to have a discussion on television about the lack of danger that the Internet poses, if used with a measured amount of caution, it would hardly be newsworthy and would be relegated to a channel or time-slot where the message would hardly be received. It is within the drama that the story resides, even if it must be grossly exaggerated to the point of fabrication.

Online DANGERouuus?

Why do parents put the most interest in the internet and the dangers it exposes to young females? I agree the internet is a popular place especially for the young, but there is the real world that everyone lives in everyday filled with danger around every corner. It must be the mystery behind the internet that scares adults because it is an individual experience for everyone and an easy way to keep stuff from others. It’s true that people are scared of what they cannot explain, and I agree that a parent must be cautious with their children and the internet.
Katie Tarbox’s book, “A Girl’s Life Online” was a descriptive life experience, that I feel could be beneficial for a parent to read. Katie’s description of how she viewed her town and the concept of perfectness was certainly disturbing to me, and not something any young female should believe. She wrote how she and her friends based all they needed to know from magazines, and skinny models. Etc. Mothers and fathers should read about this because this is the truth, because middle school was when the growing up started, most of it negative, close to Katie’s experience, not so much with the wealth though. Katie turned to the internet because she wanted attention. When the young are fed unconstructive views of what is beautiful and one feels they don’t fit the description they will turn to whoever will give them attention. Katie sought attention from her online predator and depended so much on him that got her into danger. If a young girl did read this book though I would encourage it to be with an adult, maybe more comfortable with a female but a father figure could work. It’s important to seek the positive aspects of the book as opposed to the negatives.

It is indeed scary to see that 1 in 5 children were sexually solicited online according to a statistic from 2000. (Victims, Villains, and Vixens) The internet is a secretive place where predators cannot be found out so easily and hide behind disguises to creep on the innocent who know no better. I do not feel these fears are not exaggerated, because we as people have lived with our world for a very long time, and had all that time to find the dangers around many corners, and try our best to perfect the system. However the internet compared to the real world is like a baby, and not something we can get around so easily, because there is so much to figure out. So if parents could limit certain things for their children perhaps many dangers could be avoided.

Stop blaming girls!

Although prior to reading A Girl’s Life Online I held a general idea of what the book was about, I found myself completely enthralled with reading it and could not put it down. At first, you see Katie as this very privileged but average girls, and initially I didn’t feel that much sympathy for her. Although she struggled with the same problems most young teenage girls have, her family was wealthy and she had overall seemed to have a comfortable life. As the book progressed however, I found myself feeling genuinely nervous and scared for her. Towards the end of the book, I felt complete and utter rage over how her stepdad and mother handled the situation at some points. Katie’s experience was traumatic, life-altering and horrifying and at times her family treated her terrible and tried to put the blame on her by saying things like, “feeling guilty about screwing up a man’s life?” (163). Although the book’s focus was not this aspect, I felt so enraged by it and felt like it was a good example of all the slut-shaming and victim-shaming that goes on in our society. It was absolutely NOT Katie’s fault and still, the people who should have been there to support her the most were not, which I think is a huge reason why the ordeal was so difficult on her. However, the real purpose of the book was to alert young teens and parents about how very real internet predators are. To me, I knew instinctively by reading “Mark’s” chat logs where he says things like how Katie is the most special person in the world meant that he was undoubtedly some kind of creep and pedophile but the truth is, a lot of people don’t have this same instinct. For a girl like Katie, the attention she received from Mark was something she craved so much that she overlooked all of the red flags he was sending her. I personally think that the book would be beneficial for girls to read simply for the fact that it would help them decipher red flags in the future. While I don’t think the book should be read and used as a tool to scare girls away from the Internet, I think that it being implemented as a way for people to better understand how to read people on the internet is positive. The Internet is still a really positive place for people to learn and connect, and its important to remember that its not all bad as long as you are safe and aware.

I found the Victims and Vixens article very interesting to read alongside A Girl’s Life Online. The media portrayal of cybercrime was incredibly interesting to read about, and I think a lot of very valid points were made. Specifically, I agree that a lot of time girls are marginalized in the media when it comes to these sorts of cases. The media definitely does a lot of trying to paint the girl as the guilty one since after all, she was the one to go into a chat room in the first place. This notion is ridiculous, and yet you see the media do it again and again. Furthermore, the police are definitely championed for their sting operations and for “saving” girls as the article suggested and overall, I agree that the media’s portrayal of cybercrime doesn’t necessarily bring us closer to a solution. It creates fear and anxiety among the parents of young teen girls, it marginalizes those same girls and overall, it does nothing to solve the issue. I personally think that shows like “To Catch A Predator” are exploitive and essentially make a sport out of a very real issue. Furthermore, the show creates heightened fear of the Internet, and serves as yet another way to keep girls down.

Parents Fear Privacy for their Daughters

This week I was out of town and forgot my books so I decided to focus my blog entry on the article “High Tech or High Risks: Moral Panics about Girls Online” by Justine Cassell and Meg Kramer.
Cassell and Kramer assert that adults’ panic over young women using the internet is not entirely founded in fact because the prevalence of internet crimes has been greatly exaggerated by the media. The media often focuses attention on the most gruesome and frightening of isolated events, especially those against children, because we live in a culture of fear. Parents have become increasingly concerned about internet predators because of shows like “To Catch a Predator” and crime dramas on television, in addition to news coverage about pedophilia and child abuse. While these things do happen and happen often, crimes against children are most often committed by friends or family members, not strangers. This article gives many examples of society’s attempts to “protect” young women by restricting them from technology. In an age where many children are more tech savvy than their parents it is difficult to supervise and enforce adult-placed restrictions. Parents fear, that their young daughters will be corrupted by material on the internet and will be in danger of male predators that try and lure them into real-life relationships, undermines a woman’s ability to act on her own accord.
I found the history of women not being allowed to use certain types of technology, from the telegraph to the telephone, interesting. Society has often attributed negative characteristics to women who use communicative technologies. I did not realize that owning either the telephone or the telegraph was ever controversial in American society but it makes sense to compare that fear to the current concern over internet use. As the article states, “Historical evidence [shows] that women and young people have long appropriated technology to their own ends in culturally important ways, but that very appropriation has proved a danger to the established social order, and by proxy has diminished in particular the female users in the eyes of those around them; has rendered them, in fact, “a threat to societal values and interests” (62). To me it seems that throughout history, parents concern over technology has been largely due to fear about what girls do when they’re granted privacy, not whether or not they are safe.

Parents as Internet Police

I find that the story of “A Girl’s Life Online,” by Katie Tarbox is both very timely and informative. Teenagers can be very naive, so when writer Katherine Tarbox recounted her story about when she was thirteen years old and going to meet a boy face to face who she first met online, she found out that she was dating a forty-one year old man instead of a twenty-three old boy. As a parent of two teenage girls, I find her story to be an eye opener, and it certainly gives credibility to a quote by Swedish psychologist, Christer Olsson, “Parents, keep track on your children at the computer. Internet can be as life itself. It can be dangerous” (Dangers on the Internet). Teenagers have virtual access to the world in the palm of their hands. They are young and vulnerable. Parents ought to be concerned.

The dangers of the internet should not be de-emphasized as both the media and parents are on the forefront of their condemnation. Writer Tarbox’s story is not an isolated one. Alicia Kowalkiewicz was a thirteen year old who ran away from home to meet a thirty-eight year old man from Virginia. “He held her captive in a dungeon he had created in his basement, he raped her, he abused her, he beat her, he tortured her, and he kept her chained with a locking dog collar around her neck. Alicia was lucky to survive after her abductor told a friend who later contacted the FBI. The FBI was able to storm the house and rescued her. Most abducted kids are killed within three hours of their captivity” (The Times).

As a parent, I am not obsessed with the internet, iphones, ipods or texting. However, such technology is part of the young people’s culture today, and my teenage girls who are in college and high school are finding its use necessary. However necessary its use may be, Tarbox in her book, wants parents to be aware of their children’s online activities. Most teenagers are computer savvy and know more than their parents, but nevertheless, parents must have an idea of what their children are doing online. The book is a realistic account of a young and naive thirteen year old girl who was manipulated by a vile and wicked imposter via the internet. Many horror stories of this nature have taken place. Thus, this book is a timely reminder for parents to take the role of an internet police.

“Victims, Villains, and Vixens,” does examine frames employed by the news media when reporting on internet crimes committed against girls. As per its examination, the news media report mostly how dangerous the internet is for young girls. While the internet can be a dangerous medium where predators take advantage of teenage girls, it can also be an excellent resource for research and academics. Girls are not at risk every time they log on to a computer as the news media implies. In fact, some girls post indecent materials on the internet and this can cause some sections of society to stereotype all girls.

I think that shows like “To catch a Predator,” is a useful and fair critique. It is educational. However, some producers of the news media do capitalize on these types of stories to make money. It would not be unfair to say that they prey on the fears of the people.

"He started it","so then why did you continue...." idk.....

I think the news media is fairly clever in getting people to reinterpret what people think through surveillance. Regardless if they are working with the facts, the news is still media and working to heighten the interest of viewers through the manipulation of which facts to choose from and presentation. By “…defining our villains, victims, and heroes, “ (14) the news justifies our social order so as long as there are shows that put emphasis on internet dangers then they are going to remain influential but it is to the degree that we rely on the news for information that we regard the situation as severe (excluding personal experiences). However the news can’t report what the world already knows so if there happens to be a story of how a predator is out for a 13-yr olds because that’s the type of story to raise concerns. However with so many resources available it doesn’t seem like girls at risk every time they log onto their computer. Personally I do think shows like To catch a predator are useful in the sense that they help capture predators and can ward off any other pedophiles from trying to meet with children, maybe in some cases to stop talking to children. However I do not believe these shows are educational, due to the fact that no information about how to prevent being preyed upon. I think its exploitative in which they discuss what went on within the chat history. On other hand no valuable information is relayed. Girls are just as receptive to the conversations that older men looking to hook up with 13 year old girls are. The media is not relaying too much information as to what internet safety is unless its towards the end of a sitcom to prevent the cycle of girls becoming victims. I’m in no way suggesting that parents have to inhibit their children’s online ventures to a point of non-existence but simply acknowledging the dangers online and the situations they can present themselves, usually gives kids the opportunity to make judgment of where to spend their activity online.

I agree with Edwards on how media consistently make girls the victims, ignoring or downplaying the fact that they are just as responsible or are receptive to online crime. I’m not justifying a predator’s actions nor am I trying to say that girls in solicited situations are at fault, however if the teen or girl is aware of the other person’s age in the chat room is that girl still a victim because she is receptive to the conversation of sexual solicitation. There are repercussions for the women for exploring their sexual identity. Additionally technology seems to be at fault even when its abused; such was the case in the article of the teen trying to frame two classmates for threats and harassment (3). This is a prime example of the inconsistencies in the way these roles are in reality versus the manipulation of facts the news media portrays.

Be E-Cautious

I do not think that such fears are exaggerated. I believe the scariest part of the internet is not knowing who is on the other end communicating with you. The lack of control that parents have over their children when the girls are online both upsets them and scares them. I feel that they talk about the dangers so often because they feel that if they engrain the fear of the dangers into their children, the girls will be more cautious when giving out information to the public. It is the parents’ way of “holding their child’s and when they cross the street.” They cannot be as controlling of the situation online so this is their way of having control. Edwards talks about this idea in “Victims, Villains, and Vixens.” He says that the media tells people how to think and act regarding a certain situation by repeating the idea and getting mass coverage on the topic. This is what the parents are doing as well by repeating the dangers to try to shape their child’s view of the internet.
Also, as I said, the biggest danger of the internet is not knowing who you are talking to. I have heard about a new type of predator that uses a girl’s phone number to import her phone book and then texts friends of the girl, using her phone number, and has the friends meet “her” in remote locations. When they go to meet their “friend” the predator attacks. Therefore, even though it may not be as common and, as Cassell and Cramer point out, “…teens are also at risk in the mall, walking home from school, and spending a vacation with distant relatives, and, as we will discuss further below, family members and friends, rather than strangers, are still the most frequent perpetrators of child sexual abuse,” there is still a need to be cautious. Just as parents warn their children not to talk to strangers and to be aware of their surroundings when they go to the mall, it is important for them to warn of the dangers of the internet as well.

A Girl's Life Online That Isn't So Far Off From Other Girls' Lives Online

Among this week's readings, the one that really grabbed my attention was Katie Tarbox's book A Girl's Life Online. It was such a fast and enjoyable read. It was also a read that helped me reflect on how much the internet has really changed over the years. Katie might be about 5 years older than me, but we are close enough in age to know what the internet was like in its beginning stages. My family hooked up to the internet when I was about 13 or 14 years-old. Like Katie and her family, we followed the AOL free internet trial, which led us to join their service. My earliest memories of using the internet deal with using AOL's famous chatrooms. When I wasn't using them to talk to friends, I was using them to meet like-minded strangers online. My teeny-bopper, pop princess, 13 year-old self was a self-professed Backstreet Boys fangirl. When I wasn't in a BSB chatroom discussing how awesome they were, I was in the N*SYNC chatrooms bad-mouthing every N*SYNC fan in there. Some nights though brought me to the same teen chatrooms that led Katie to meeting "Mark". I will always remember one moment when I met a guy online. We exchanged our ASL (age, sex, location) and began talking about small things. He then asked me for a picture of me. My naive self began rumaging through my house for my cheap digital camera that my grandparents gave me. I'm very glad I never found that camera. For all I know that "teen" could have been another predator like "Mark".

During those years, many people saw the internet as being harmless to youth. What harm could be done to someone when they were seperated from others by a computer screen and an unknown length of cyber space between them? My parents tried to keep a watchful eye, but once they went to bed the internet was free game to me and my siblings. Adults in this day and age are aware of the dangers of the internet. Those with children do their best to place the necessary rules and precautions in order to protect their children. It took horrible events, such as the one that Katie Tarbox went through, in order to bring awareness about the harms of the internet to individuals.

I really admire Katie Tarbox for writing a very honest look into how one innocent night spent in an online chatroom brought her so much pain and strife for many years. Although the events she went through happened at a very young age in the life of the internet, there are still girls in the world today that go through the same things that Katie did. I highly recommend this book to any teenage girl out there. Especially in today's world that revolves around the use of the internet so much.

Online Dangers

The news media is not telling us as much as there is to know about girls and internet crime in my mind.  They certainly do have television shows about some things that go on but I do think that we are left in the dark about many other factors, like how serious internet predators are and how many are actually out there.  Girls are definitely at risk every time they log onto their computers.  People are out there disguising themselves as younger people and gaining the trust of these girls to do bad things.  It makes me sick to my stomach to think of all the things that we are never told by the media.  When we imply about claims like these we are voicing our opinions for girls that have none.  These predators prey on young girls with low self- esteem and that have no one there to watch over every move that they make, especially on computers.
The critique is certainly fair that girls are victims of the internet as I said above.  I don’t believe that the police are the only heroes who can save them.  There are concerned family members, neighbors, teachers, friends, etc. who can save them by talking to them about things such as this.  We can educate young girls on the safety of internet use.  For my service-learning I am teaching a Girl Scout group about internet safety from research for school to other network sites that are out there.  If we all have to sacrifice some of our civil liberties I think I will be okay with that.  I’m not saying to take away every one’s privacy and freedoms; I’m just saying that I wouldn’t mind giving a little to get a lot more.  I believe everything you learn is useful.  It may not be exactly what you believe but seeing someone else’s ideas and thoughts may open up something inside of you that you’ve never felt.  I think that shows like catch a predator are definitely helpful and educational.  If one young person watches that show and learns anything, than it is certainly a success.  It is far from exploitative because when someone has intentions of doing things to hurt a young person than in my mind they have lost all their rights and deserve to be humiliated in front of the world!       

The Threat of the White Picket Fence

The readings this week were very intriguing and I read through the entire "A Girl's Life Online" in a few short hours. Prior to completing the reading, I was hesitant to agree with the message that the book might be sending -- that girls are naive, victims of the internet who are in danger. I was interested in the questions the essay, "High Tech or High Risk: Moral Panics about Girls Online " asked such as, "Does the internet pose a constant—and unusual—danger to online teens? If so, what is the actual nature of the danger—is it exposure to inappropriate images, such as pornography, or is it also the risk of kidnapping, rape, or murder? Are the eleven million American teenagers who use the internet daily unknowingly subjecting themselves to certain danger? Are the 87 percent of teens who are online more at risk of victimization than the 13 percent of teens who are not online?" (Cassell and Cramer). I was reminded of the IM conversation I had with a male classmate who declared, "I just disagree with the fact that most people look at girls like naive characters who will talk to anyone…I think girls can handle their own on the net…The digital world is a place where any one could potentially be in danger."

Justine Cassell and Meg Cramer argue that there is much more to the story than teens, computers, and criminals. Rather, they ascribe the panic surrounding the dangers of the internet to that of a "moral panic." This is noted as a recurrent theme throughout history with regard to girls and new communication technologies. They cite for example, the telegraph and the telephone as parallels to internet and social networking sites like MySpace. The problem with the perceived jeopardy is that the facts don't match up. The statistics show that predatory behavior on adolescent girls has a certain profile that has either not changed over the decade since the Internet became popular, or has improved over time. For this reason one can infer the real threat is over the compromised virtue of young girls, parental loss of control in the face of a seductive machine, and the debate over whether women can ever be high tech without being in jeopardy.

So what happened to Katie Tarbox, author of "A Girl's Life Online?" In fact, at thirteen-years old, she was made a victim of a pedophile assisted by the internet. However, Ms. Tarbox does attest a large hand of blame to the constructs of gender in society. Katie began a relationship with this man (in his 40s whom she believed was 23), because of her low self-esteem, which was exacerbated by the material and image driven world she was raised in. Additionally, she felt she had no one close in her life to connect with; her mother always too busy working and her stepfather around but aloof. Obviously the first blame is to the man who would commit such a cruel act to a young girl. But there is an even larger problem at play when a bright young girl would be so easily brainwashed to put herself at risk when conversing with and meeting a stranger.

Understandably, internet usage and attitudes towards girls' participation has evolved, since 1995 when Tarbox began using AOL Chat Rooms. I believe, in general, adult and youth users are much more aware of the precautions to take when online. The real threat to girls' is a lack of resistance acquired to combat negative societal forces. Studies have shown that, speaking up, yes, just telling your story and saying how you feel provides this necessary resistance. So, the internet, rather than a threat can be a tool to promote positive identity construction and self-efficacy - i.e. social network production, graphic design, blogging, etc.

Cassell and Cramer echo this by saying, "While they are ascribed roles of naivete, innocence, or delinquency in the media, in actuality, they turn out to be active and informed consumers and producers of mediated conversations and texts." I agree with the authors that the dangers to girls online are not as severe as they have been portrayed, and that the reason for this exaggeration of danger arises from adult fears about girls’ agency (particularly sexual agency) and societal discomfort around girls as power users of technology.

Beware, Internet!

It’s funny how I’ve come to think that the internet isn’t really a dangerous place anymore, I used to be scared to death of it. Fears of the internet are definitely exaggerated and the media isn’t doing anything to help ease these anxieties. When looking at what makes the internet “dangerous” it always seems to boil down to girls getting into chat rooms, chatting with strangers, meeting up with said strangers and being taken advantage of. I’m in no way saying that this doesn’t happen and that PEOPLE aren’t taken advantage of and abused in this manner, I am however saying that it is far less likely for someone to come into contact with danger via the internet than just walking around outside, let’s say at night. Most perpetrators of violence and abuse know their victims, a fact that isn’t too well known amongst our society. Everyone thinks that it’s always strangers committing these acts, when in reality, it’s mostly people we come to know and trust in our day-to-day lives. A lot of people being misinformed and thinking things like this have to do with the media. Just like Edwards discusses in Victims, Villains and Vixens, the news is something that is a daily repetition that tells people what to think about, how to think about it and ultimately how to feel about it. As Edwards discusses, the news first defines our villains (predators online) and victims (young girls), then it confers the status of the issue by making it a known presence in the news outlets ad lastly heightens anxieties by extensive coverage. An example of where my initial statement and this idea from Edwards cross is in the case of “To Catch a Predator”. This is a show where police officers set up a sting where a female officer acts as a young girl, meets men in chat rooms, gets them to come to a house for sexual acts and then the male is taken down by police officers. By doing having this show the media has clearly defined the villain (men from chat rooms) and the victim (young girl). They never portray any other type of situation with any other sexes, for example men with young boys, females with young boy, females with young girls, etc. It is very evident that they, the media, think that only girls are subject to events like this after meeting someone in a chat room. After making this definition and getting people interested in what was being presented in the show, it then became a regular staple in the weekly programming and even sometimes airing a few times a week. Because of the frequency of the show the media was able to make it a prominent issue to the consumers (society) and was able to raise the level of anxiety of both young girls and parents of young girls.

Like Edwards went into in the article, the voice of the young people is often left out of the media and isn’t represented in a fair fashion. Because of this, society doesn’t have a true understanding of what types of young kids exactly are at risk and WHY they are actually at risk on the internet. Maybe it has nothing to do with sex, or parental supervision. Maybe there is a different correlation that people have been neglecting to look at or even consider just because it’s a younger group of people that is being discussed and let’s face it, our society generally neglects issues of both the younger and older generations because they just seem “out of line” to discuss.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Don't Just Toss Her into the Sea! -week 10

While reading this weeks assignments, I reflected upon my digital autobiography that I wrote for this class. I was somewhat one of the ignorant parents that our text discussed. With Internet access in so many homes and the potential dangers of exposing innocent victims to negative outside forces, it is imperative that parents have parental controls on their computers along with adult supervision.

The thought of sink or swim kept coming to my mind while reflecting on this weeks reading. Would you throw your child out into the "Big Blue Sea" without teaching him/her to swim with all the dangerous predators just waiting for your child to go down underneath the surface? NBC- Dateline reports that there are 50,000 predators online at any given moment and over 11 million teens with daily Internet use, ( webcourse-Moral Panic about Girls online). The Internet can be much like the sea scenario. We as parents must train our children of the potential dangers of the Internet and make sure that they have programs that don't allow unwanted images displayed on the computer. It is the parental responsibility to ensure the safety of their children in both the real and the virtual world. Victims, Villains, and Vixens discusses how the absence of parental authority and ignorance can add to the dangers of exposure. There is a false sense of security and parents need to be educated in the dangers of the Internet in order to protect their children.

In addition, the media plays a huge role in the expectations of our society and what the norm accepts. The news that we are exposed to falls into this media as well. This media is guilty of framing what details they want to display to the public. This is achieved through a manipulation of words and facts in order to tell the story they choose to make headlines. Many times this is achieved by leaving out the facts of the story influencing the audience. For example a 13 year old girl met a stranger online and was murdered by her stranger. The New York Times titled the article "Slain girl used Internet to Seek Sex" portraying her as a type of prostitute. She was only 13 years old. How can our society even get away with those type of headlines, that should be a crime in itself!

According to "Moral Panic about Girls Online", since 1994 the percentage of single offender crimes against girls where the offender is an adult/stranger has declined- this fact is concurrent with the rise of the Internet.This came as a surprise to me. I guess I became a victim of the news media, thinking the opposite. This article goes on to say that kids are still at greater risks for abuse, through family members and friends rather than strangers as well as being abducted at public places. I questioned this as to the possibility that many potential predators may not have access to the Internet or maybe they are not patient enough to establish a relationship with their victim. Although there are many well established predators that would not fall into this concept.

A Girl's Life Online was a powerful autobiography of a girls experience as a victim of an online predator. Her story, should be read by all young girls ( boys as well). The lack of support from her family during this ordeal was one that I found difficult to comprehend. I can't imagine having a child go through this type of emotional turmoil without love and support she experienced. It almost seemed that her mother made the decision to have a career over her job as a parent. Although Katie was involved in school activities she didn't have much of a home life often feeling alone and isolated, as a result she filled the emotional void online, in a chat room with a stranger portraying himself as a young man but in reality he was a man in his 40's. I thought it strange how upon meeting this man Katie focused on his odd shoes. Although she had to go through such emotional distress it was because of her mothers' rescue in the Hotel that the crime wasn't worse. It's because of this incident and the crime committed, that many of the Internet laws are present today.

I think what we should take away from this weeks reading, that it is the parental responsibility to protect and educate our kids of the dangers on the Internet. The concept is very similar to that of pushing a child off the boat when they are not trained to swim. Even though Internet crimes have declined, it's still far from being a safe place. Kids need to be monitored and parental controls should be placed on their computer.

Ahem..your facebook is showing...

I thought this article was interesting - I guess I never really thought about my facebook page as an online "resume" - but actually it is. (it shows our interests, our friends, photo of us...etc.) -

You have 1500+ friends on Facebook which you only know about 30% of them. You post hourly updates and tweets on Twitter. Your friends tag you in pictures – some are good and some you wouldn’t show your parents. You are all wired and connected 24/7 on your new iPhone or with your latest smartphone.

Ok so what is so bad about that? Billions of other college bound students do the same.

What college applicants need to realize is that social sites like Facebook and Twitter are your real life resumes. It might work for you or against you.

Many students post inappropriate posts and offensive pictures that could ruin your chances of getting into your top choice schools. Many college admissions counselors can see this information about you and can be turned off and reject your application due to inappropriate content on your profile. Sites like Facebook, can store your data for a lifetime and removing posts with profanity or pictures of you passed out from drinking can be difficult in the future.

Facebook is becoming your new resume. Many college admissions staff recommends creating personal websites or blogs about your accomplishments or work portfolios. Showcase your art, different projects or simply write something positive about to show schools who you are.

We live a digital world. News and information travels quickly. Students need to think more strategically about their online presence and take control of what they write and post online.

College admissions directors continue to use publicly available source of information and public data to “snoop” and “spy” on their applicants to learn more about them.

Before posting a picture of you drinking, think how a teacher or your family member might react when seeing your “provocative” photos.

If you’re tagged in photos, check to make sure they are appropriate photos. If you are holding a smoking bong, it is a good idea to untag yourself.

Post useful content like news articles that interest you, your work portfolios, video clips of your performances, etc.

Delete profanity, references to drug use, risky or offensive photos, bad grammar.

If you have a college bound student or know someone who is applying to college, please forward this article and help them protect themselves by not ruining their admissions chances.

Danger Danger!

While I first began reading Katie's story, I was absorbed into the book right away. But as the events started to unfold, I was disheartened by the lack of support her mother and stepfather expressed to her; along with her swim coach and her teammates - the whole lot of them sickened me. Having a young daughter myself, I could never imagine treating her with such disregard as they did to Katie - especially during one of the most traumatic events in her young life. I was surprised to read her mother's first response to her stepfather was that "SHE was mortified" and I was even more surprised that she continued the next day at Katie's swim meet as if it was all Katie's fault. I was also shocked at the reaction of the coach as well. The idea they were discussing Katie's "incident" and the effect it will have on the swim team was appalling! It is evident that much of Katie's insecurities and lack of confidence was a direct result from the yearning of attention she so desired from her mother. Honestly as far as the "purpose" of this book - I am not really sure what it is. A part of me believes the purpose of it
is for parents (especially moms) to read the book as a reinforcement that daughters NEED attention from their mothers. I also believe it serves as a warning for young girls to be aware of the dangers that can evolve when meeting "strangers" online - but moreover I believe the message is too parents. I believe more parents than young girls would find this book useful.

Also, as in the article by Lynne Edwards - Katie story captures a "certain image" (framing)...."a top student, a national ranked swimmer from a affluent Connecticut town" - Although in Katie's story - it is Katie that tells her story - which is usually not the case as stated in Lynne Edwards article - usually the victim's voice is not heard.

Overall I believe as Cassell/Cramer states.."..teens are also at risk in the mall, walking home from school and spending time with a distant relative...etc." - however if one over exaggerated fear saves even one child from a predator than the over-exaggerated fears are certainly worth it.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Sexting Teen Can't Be Charged With Felony, Court Rules

from: The Huffington Post on 3/17/11
In the first criminal "sexting" case to reach a federal appeals court, the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. District Court of Appeals ruled against Wyoming County District Attorney Jeff Mitchell, whose predecessor had threatened to pursue felony charges against the girl unless she agreed to participate in a diversionary program and write an essay explaining what she did and why it was wrong.
That violated the teen's constitutional right to be free from compelled speech and infringed on her parents' right to direct her upbringing, the court said.
The district attorney also had no evidence that the teen was involved in the photo's distribution, the court said.
The image, which wound up on students' cell phones, showed the 16-year-old girl just out of the shower and topless, with a towel wrapped around her waist. It surfaced in October 2008, when officials at Tunkhannock Area High School confiscated five cell phones and found that boys had been trading photos of scantily clad, seminude or nude teenage girls. The students with the cell phones ranged in age from 11 to 17.
Then-District Attorney George Skumanick met with about 20 students and their parents and offered them a deal in which the youths wouldn't be prosecuted if they took a class on sexual harassment, sexual violence and gender roles. Seventeen of the students accepted the offer, but three balked and sued Skumanick.
The two other girls who had filed suit had appeared in a photo showing them at age 12 in training bras at a sleepover. The district attorney's office recently said it would not press charges against the girls, making their claims before the appeals court moot.
In Wednesday's ruling, the court agreed that the prosecutor's threat to charge the topless teen was "retaliation" for her refusal to participate in the class. The panel issued a preliminary injunction against Mitchell and sent the case back to a lower court.
"I think the important message for prosecutors is that there are constitutional limits on their ability to bring criminal charges against kids involved in sexting," said Witold Walczack, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, which represents the teens.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The bright side of blogs

Although I was aware of fan faction prior to our readings, I learned a lot more about the way it works and how it affects young girls. When I was younger, I kept a Livejournal and do remember coming across users who would devote their journals to posting fan fiction. I remember feeling like it was almost romance novel-esque however I feel like our readings really helped me understand the good it could do. As noted on page 124, for a lot of girls, their English and writing skills improved as result of fan fiction. Furthermore, I’m sure it worked to get people not previously interested in reading and writing more involved.

I think that fan fiction can do great thing in terms of helping girls create and express their identity. The quote, “the fictional characters are also a means for the girls to fashion new and emerging identifies for themselves…a rehearsal of who they want to become,” really helps explain the way a girls identity can be shaped through writing. I really do thing it allows girls a way to express themselves in a way they’re too scared to do in real life, and furthermore, it allows them to do so without the fear of judgment. Part of the reason why its so alluring to girls is the fact that they can write pretty much anything they want without the fear of being made fun of or mocked that they would have to face in real life.

I definitely understand the notion that fan fiction is copyright infringement, I think overall the benefits of fan fiction for girls outweigh the negative. Sure, fan fiction is not as creative and what some people would call “lazy” in comparison to writing original stories and characters, but I think the point is is that it is getting young girls engaged and interested in writing. Girls who may have never written for fun in their entire lives are now inspired by characters they love to in turn write their own stories. This not only does the obvious of helping their English skills, but it also allows these girls to be a part of a community of like minded individuals. Another interesting thing I found from the readings was an excerpt on page 129 where the author says that fan fiction allows for girls to “try on” different genders and sexualities. For people unsure of their sexuality, I think this is a very positive thing as it provides a safe place for people to learn more about their sexual identity.

Vickery’s article brought up some important points about girls and blogging. I like that Vickery compared blogs and zines on page 187, and agree that the two are very similar because of the fact that do allow girls to be represented in different ways. With Liz’s example on page 196, it becomes very evident that blogging can be more than just dumping words on to the internet. It can also mean a safe, cathartic place that many girls might not otherwise have. Socially and culturally, blogging communities can have a huge impact on girls. Obviously, they provide a place for likeminded individuals to interact, but beyond that, they provide a place that is much more free of judgment than their real lives. I think a lot of times girls feel like they can express their true selves on blogs or amongst community members because they feel like they can let their true identity show. I personally love blogs, and follow quite a few of them. I’m actually about to start my own personal blog about the traveling I’m planning on doing after graduating. To me, blogs are such a wonderful way to learn more about other people and by extension, yourself. I think a lot of times they can be inspiring and insightful in a way a lot of other websites can’t because of the fact that they’re so personal. I certainly feel like my identity is affected by the blogs and articles I read on the internet, just as many girls are shaped by the fan fiction or blog communities they’re a part of.

I thought the Girl Scouts Social Networking Guide was really interesting as well. For my service-learning project, I am writing a blog and discuss social networking so it was really interesting for me to see such explicit guides. I think its great that girls are being taught how to approach social networking safely.