I’m in the middle of doing a survey at my collaborative fiction community site Pan Historia and I found out that I have a number of teen users. Pan has always been friendly to young writers – for instance we have a collaborative novel centered around the world of Harry Potter, for example – but I was surprised at the number and the types of answers Pan teens gave to my questions. For instance most of them did not frequent tons of other sites and all answered that they loved to read and write, fiction and sometimes non-fiction too. Yes, they used MySpace or Facebook, but in general they came off as more studious types than the stereotypical teen (or my offspring when he was their age for that matter!).
Interestingly right into my Twitter feed came news of this study today: New Study Shows Time Online Important for Teen Development. In reading the PDF link from their web page I was interested to read this paragraph:
A smaller number of youth use the online world to explore interests and find information that goes beyond what they have access to at school or in their local community. Online groups enable youth to connect to peers who share specialized and niche interests of various kinds, whether that is online gaming, creative writing, video editing, or other artistic endeavors. In these interest-driven networks, youth may find new peers outside boundaries of their local communities. They can also find opportunities to publicize and distribute their work to online audiences and to gain new forms of visibility and acceptance.
The study concludes that teens can actually benefit and develop valuable social and practical skills by this online interaction. In our case I think that their interaction with adults also provides valuable example and learning experiences for our young writers – many of home have ‘grown up’ on Pan. I know of several of our longer term members who originally joined Pan Historia as young teen writers and now have the opportunity to help other youth develop their social and writing skills.