Your children value their independence and their privacy. But they may be opening themselves up online. More children than ever are using online journals (blogs) to share their lives.
In a perfect world, you could ask your teen if they keep a blog. He or she would answer honestly. But this isn’t always the case.
Some popular online journal sites include MySpace, Xanga and LiveJournal. These sites let each member use an alias. But many kids simply use their real names anyway. They open their personal lives and information to the Web. As a parent, you should know what’s going on in your child’s online world.
Most journal sites allow you to browse their members. But they tend to be stingy with their search features. If your children have journals, you still have a decent chance of finding them. Most are honest about personal information like name, age and location. Let’s use MySpace as an example. They have a free search.
First, go to www.myspace.com. Click on search from the menu bar. You’ll be taken to a page with search options. Under "Find Someone You Know," you can simply enter your child’s name. Then click Find. Most members post photos, so you should be able to easily spot your child in the search results.
Most children don’t see a reason to lie about names if they’re looking to make friends on the site. But if you don’t get any results, you can try search for your child’s e-mail address if you know it. Just go back to the "Find Someone You Know" section on the search page. For the "Select search by" option, select Email. Then enter the e-mail address and click Find.
LiveJournal requires an account for searching. If you’re not comfortable creating an account, you can still try searching the site through Google. I’ll tell you more about that in a moment.
To create an account at LiveJournal, click Welcome>>Create an Account from the menu bar. You’ll need to enter your e-mail address and birthdate. You’ll also need to enter a username and password of your choice. Finally, make sure that you choose "Free Account" so you won’t be charged.
To search, go to http://www.livejournal.com. Click Search>>Advanced from the menu bar. Select your country, state and city. Under Journal Update Time, don’t select anything. Under Age, enter your child’s age into both boxes to search for the right age. Under Interest, I would leave it blank. Enter a word only if it’s definitely a big part of your child’s life. Under Has Friend, leave it blank. Then click the Search button.
Xanga (http://www.xanga.com) offers searching to only paid members. You can search the site for free by trying a Google search of the site.
Another site that has gained popularity is Facebook (www.facebook.com). Facebook’s interactivity, including searching, is available only to students. An e-mail address ending with ".edu" is required to sign up or use the site. So there’s not much you can look into if your child is using Facebook. I think it’s important nevertheless to be aware of it. If you do happen to have a .edu e-mail address as a college alumnus, you should check out the site.
Of course, use Google
Then, of course, there’s Google. Google can do pretty well searching only your child’s first name and city. It can often outdo even a site’s own search. You can search an individual site with the "site:" operator. For example, you can Google search MySpace by entering "site:myspace.com" Follow that phrase with search terms like age, location or interests.
If that’s not clear enough instructions for you, use Google’s Advanced Search page:
Enter your child’s information in the Find Results area. Then, under Domain, enter the Web site. For example, here you would type xanga.com
Google might be able to catch old journals. It caches (stores) pages that might not exist anymore. If one of your search results links doesn’t work, try the cache. It’s a link called "Cached" below each search result. That’s handy for journals that have been recently lost or erased.
Worried about intruding in your child’s privacy? Think about all the anonymous Internet surfers who do it without conscience. Shouldn’t you know at least as much as those strangers? Make sure your child isn’t giving away too much information, like addresses and phone numbers.
And the information you find can help you as a parent. It could tip you off to bad influences in your child’s life. It’s worth knowing if your teen is drinking, sexually active, or going through bouts of depression.
We hope this information helps you. Do not get upset, there is help, reach out, network with friends and family they are a good resource to start. Also you have the police department in your area, the juvenile departments, procecutor’s office, county offices, schools and parent groups-organizations that are willing to provide a helping hand.
Just like this blog, it may not be much, but it contains valuable information to you all. It is our hope the information here helps you as much as it helped us.
How to find your kid’s online blog
February 21, 2006