Trading keyboards for pens

Thursday, February 21, 2008

It's a fact that young people are communicating more and more over the computer. This phenomenon is exploding as millions of youth set up Facebook and My Space pages as their portals for conversing with others. Recently, efforts have been launched to better police these sites and help keep them safe from on-line predators. This is an ongoing issue and one that we have already touched upon in several different editorials.

This week, we'd like to champion a cause presented by award-winning author Meg Cabot that encourages young people to give their computers a rest and switch their keypad for a pen to journal about their lives. Cabot who writes the popular "Princess Diaries" series has partnered with the American Library Association to host events across the country that challenge young people to go back to airing out their thoughts by writing about them in diaries and journals.

Facebook pages are probably not the best place to post unedited, emotional outpourings. A young person's feelings often change on a dime and once posted, it's hard to take those words back. Journaling about one's feelings is a little like counting to 10. Young people should learn that it's best to use a little self-control before writing out messages in anger and then sending them out with one single key stroke. Those hurtful words and angry diatribes quickly become a form of cyber bullying. There's a great commercial airing right now in primetime that depicts a teenager saying hateful things about another girl from behind a podium using a microphone. The commercial urges young people to think before they e-mail or text someone and reminds them to write only what they would feel comfortable saying to the person's face. Sending a text or sending out an e-mail is a rather cowardly way to handle strife and disagreements. These situations are best handled face to face and privately.

Getting teens to unplug from the internet and find a new way of personal expression is a challenge, but one that parents across this country should try to champion. It's also important that parents continue to monitor their children's computer usage, and remember as long as those children are living in your home, you have the right to have access to their Facebook or My Space accounts. And that's another way to motivate the practice of journaling - diaries can be hidden in a room and locked with a key.