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The fact that in chatroom interactions nothing can be taken for granted, when taken to an extreme, creates a Wonderland that can be compelling.Involvement in it can become the most ‘real’ world in which you act, as Sherry Turtle puts it, quoting one of her informants, ‘RL’ (‘Real Life’). Currently the sites where these experiments with the presentation of self are most common are in textbased chatrooms, but chatrooms are themselves changing, being linked to ‘reality TV’, becoming hybridised with SMS (text messaging) and extending into other forms.On the Internet, you are not restricted to trying on clothes, but can try on different names, origins, life histories, attitudes and opinions, different ways of relating to others, different ages and genders.And you do so knowing that those you are talking with are probably doing the same.We use it to check train times, the price of plane tickets, the weather forecast, the availability of books, as a place to leave messages for our children, to make contact with people, to announce family news, to exchange photos and music, to apply for jobs, to chat with friends and with strangers, to research, to learn and to teach.The Internet has become, for many of us, not only our primary source of information, but has extended and changed the scale of our social networks and the pace and intensity with which we interact with people: it has changed our identities (Mitchell, 2003).
Sherry Turkle tells of her shock and surprise at entering a chatroom anonymously and encountering another Professor Turkle who was there doing research.
One that has become popular in the last few years is ‘blogging’, the keeping of diaries, journals and log books on line (hence ‘webblogs’) and sometimes linked to Web cams, which link video surveillance to a personal Web site.
‘Blogging’ has some of the appeal of soap opera, as vernacular ‘stars’ arise, who keep journals which detail their personal lives, or more insidiously in some of the blogs found on sites that celebrate anorexia.
In some cases they will use blocks and filters but these are never fully effective and they know that they need to find other ways of guiding children to safe use.
Censorship does not work in cyberspace (or works in only partial and transitory ways) and what is generally agreed is needed is education in ‘responsible use.’ This includes developing educational strategies that take account of the appeal and attraction of the Internet and supports young people in reflecting on their own practice as Internet users and the consequences of their Internet interactions on others. Generally speaking we found that the fears that young people had about the safety of the Internet differed from those of adults.
In this paper we describe a particular set of Internetbased interactions that have great appeal to young people but create most anxiety among parents and other adults. In the main they were concerned about security rather than pornography, which they saw as amusing rather than harmful.