Originally created 07/11/00

Techno teens



Some area teens are spending a lot of time surfing this summer. But instead of waves at a sunny beach, they're on computer screens.

With no school or schedule, Elizabeth Barron, 16, stays in the cyber world into the early morning hours.

"When I go on vacation, I go through withdrawal," the 17-year-old said.

A rising junior at Harlem High School, Elizabeth's current pastime is spending time on the Internet. If she's not e-mailing friends, visiting chat rooms or role-playing, she's simply surfing.

"I get on the Net a lot and look for stuff that interests me, like jokes, stories and downloading music," she said.

With no school or schedule, Elizabeth Barron, 16, stays in the cyber world into the early morning hours.

"When I go on vacation, I go through withdrawal," the 17-year-old said.

A rising junior at Harlem High School, Elizabeth's current pastime is spending time on the Internet. If she's not e-mailing friends, visiting chat rooms or role-playing, she's simply surfing.

"I get on the Net a lot and look for stuff that interests me, like jokes, stories and downloading music," she said.

It's no secret that teen-agers and adults have fallen in love with the Internet. Nielsen Net Ratings reports 130 million users in the United States. A recent study by National Public Radio, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government found that 73 percent of children surveyed said they regularly use the Internet or e-mail.

Multi-tasking - talking to people through instant messaging (person to person conversations), hanging out in chat rooms and surfing all at the same time - is a "high" for Elizabeth.

"It sounds kind of lame to people who don't do it, but it's a lot of fun," she said.

Other teens said they've "grown out of" spending long periods of time chatting online.

"One time I stayed on for 12 hours talking to this guy. That was it," said Olivea Shure, 18.

Olivea and friends Joyce Tahop, 18, and Tia Madoo, 17, were hanging out at Mount Helicon Cafe on Broad Street recently. All three are recent graduates of Davidson Fine Arts Magnet High School.

The girls said they didn't see a problem with teens spending long periods of time online if they have the time to do so.

"If you're under 21, there's not a lot to do around here," Olivea said.

"If you can't drive, you can talk to people without having to go out," Tia added.

Joyce and Olivea said they have had "Internet boyfriends," but they stressed the difference between knowing someone online and in person.

"It doesn't work out because it's hard. You get more bold on the Internet. You can think of what to say and might sound smarter than you are," Joyce said with a laugh.

"It ends up a lot more work in the long run. The computer's too technical and clinical," Tia said.

There's also a backlash against the cyber community among some teens.

"I don't see a purpose of the Internet," said Courtney Swain, 16. "You can interact with your friends. It's cooler to go out with people you know."

A rising junior at North Augusta High School, Courtney was playing a game of chess with Matt Carlson, 18, a recent North Augusta graduate, at Mount Helicon.

"I used to chat, but then I started feeling like a sheep because everybody is on it," Courtney said.

Teens said that they use the Web mostly for e-mail and school research.

"It's real helpful for providing information, but I wouldn't have a problem with not being on it for a week," said Jacqueline Bowie, 17.

Jacqueline accesses the Internet at home, mostly for practical reasons. Recently, the rising Butler High School senior visited college sites to check on admissions information. She e-mails friends and uses instant messaging among her family, but she's never been in a chat room.

"I think it's dangerous, especially for young people, and some people like to take risks. I just don't fool with that," she said.

Despite risks, teens argue that going online is better than being out past curfew, driving around looking for something to do.

"It's a safe way to meet with your friends and meet new people," said Elizabeth, who has never met any of her online friends in person.

Teens who venture into chat rooms said they know the dangers, especially when it's difficult to know who's on the other side of the computer screen.

"People lie all the time. There are a lot of creepy people on the Internet, especially at 3 in the morning," Elizabeth said.

"You catch people in contradictions. You always have to keep your guard up because people invent these personas and mold themselves into what they think you want," Tia said.

Internet identities

Top 5 reasons for computer use among youth 10-17:

  • Schoolwork

  • Playing games
  • Current events information
  • Sending/receiving e-mail
  • Getting information about entertainment, sports or hobbies
  • 78 percent of those surveyed said they had a computer at home.
  • 57 percent of those surveyed said they used the computer every day.
  • - From a poll by National Public Radio, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government

    Reach Margaret Weston at (706) 823-3340.

    With no school or schedule, Elizabeth Barron, 16, stays in the cyber world into the early morning hours.

    "When I go on vacation, I go through withdrawal," the 17-year-old said.

    A rising junior at Harlem High School, Elizabeth's current pastime is spending time on the Internet. If she's not e-mailing friends, visiting chat rooms or role-playing, she's simply surfing.

    "I get on the Net a lot and look for stuff that interests me, like jokes, stories and downloading music," she said.