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Growing Up Online
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How They're Doing

FRONTLINE contacted three of the teens featured in Growing Up Online for updates on their lives, online and off. Here's what they wrote.

Greg Bukata

photo of greg with a laptop

Greg graduated from Chatham High School in 2007. He is now a first-year cadet at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn.

Since boot camp, a lot has changed in my life. I know what it's like to work as part of a team and to push myself beyond what I ever thought I could do. All of these values, specifically honor, respect and devotion to duty, have been drilled into my head since the day I reported in to the United States Coast Guard Academy.

Another surprising thing that I learned was about a world without the Internet. What it really comes down to is not being able to have the instant gratification of communication. Not being able to call or write an e-mail distances people from each other. I was forced to write by hand, a somewhat barbaric method in our society these days.

Interestingly, it felt so different reading a piece of mail at boot camp. There is something very special about receiving mail. Seeing something that has been written just for you, the handwriting and the style of writing brings out a different sense of communication. A letter is more valued than an e-mail, which is less personal.

While mail seemed priceless during my training, I didn't think it satisfied what I was looking for. Growing up where communication is taken for granted, it seemed like the mail didn't satisfy my need to communicate with others. I was left with a lonely feeling after reading my letter because I am use to a so much more gratifying interaction.

Life at the academy restricts many different Internet uses. Now Cadets can write e-mails but are unable to use Facebook, MySpace or instant messenger. While Facebook is great, I feel like not having it has benefited me. I no longer communicate with people that I would only talk to online. Instead, I focus on making friendships at the academy. Instead of wasting hours on instant messenger, I will just call a friend, a more personal way of communicating.

With the time I save, I find ways to be productive, like working out, studying and meeting new people. I don't have a choice at the academy, but when I do get the privilege to have an instant messenger again, I most likely will not even consider using it again.

I think my whole experience has given me a new outlook on technology and the use of the Internet. I realize the dependency that has been developed over my childhood and the benefits of not having the Internet. I believe that in the end, our society is such that the Internet is so important and proficiency can be beneficial. However, one must ask, where do you cross the line?

Cam Skinner

photo of cam with a headset

Cam also graduated from Chatham High School in 2007. He is now a freshman at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y.

I would say that one of the main things that parents have to keep in mind is that life is different from when they were young, and that they need to realize this and respect their children's privacy. The same way a parent wouldn't go through their child's room, they should not got through their child's profiles online (like mine has done, even since I've been at school).

Also, they need to be aware of the fact that their kids will want their privacy when it comes to their online profiles or whatever they have. They should respect their child's privacy until they suspect that their child is in danger, in which case they should take some sort of action. ...

As far as my life being different since I've been at school, it's unnerving because my mom, somehow, has seen my Facebook pictures and seen me in some compromising pictures. ... Her reasons for doing this is because she believes that if I am using the Internet she pays for (at home) or the computer that she paid for (at school), then she has the right to see what I am doing. ...

The only thing that I would really say is different for me at least is that instead of worrying about her looking over my shoulder, I am worried about her hacking into my computer and finding out what I am putting up on the Internet (even though nothing is illegal and compromising). ...

My mom and I get along now, more so than before, but I don't know if she knows, or will ever know, just how hard she has made my life and how much I have forgotten or ignored so that our relationship wouldn't suffer.

Autumn Edows

photo of autumn edow's myspace page

Autumn graduated from Shepard High School in Summit, N.J. in 2007. Her MySpace page is back online (MySpace login required to view pictures).

I'm taking college courses in Morris County. I'm studying Web design, literature, and my major is photography. I'm just now starting up a new Web site, www.autumnedows.com, and I want to use it to reach out to my fan base and hopefully start linking up with musicians, photographers, models, Web designers and other artists.

My hopes for the future are to use my Web site to start helping other models in the New Jersey area build up their portfolios online, and I want to use Web design to branch out and link with them and other collaborators.

I want to be more open about who I am and what I want to accomplish. It's something I neglected in the past because I was younger and I didn't know what I wanted. On my Web site, I also want to show the artists that have inspired me, so people know what my roots are.

The Internet has allowed me to reach out to people I never would have had the opportunity to meet otherwise, and I hope that friendships and relationships will come of it that will help me grow as an artist. My Web site is going to be finished soon, so please check www.autumnedows.com for updates!

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posted january 22, 2008

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