I wanted to know what tween blogs really looked like, not just this stock theme provided by WordPress, so I went looking at a website mentioned in one of the readings from USA Today, allykatzz.com. If you want a place where tweens go, this is it. On the homepage, they advertise a “tween summit” for girls ages 9-14 that is taking place in October in Washington, DC. The idea? Tweens talk, adults listen. Even Mrs. Obama is invited! And don’t forget the cool quotient, there will be music and it will be cool: Brooke White and the boy band WOW, who haven’t been together long but are 15-20 years old. On the concert information page, WOW’s manager is quoted: “A great thing about this group is that they are not afraid like other acts tend to be about saying that they love pop music or that they are in a boy band.” While that may not appeal to me, I think it will appeal to tweens who love pop music and boy bands and this will be a good thing. Not because I think WOW is going to be my new favorite band, but because they giving tween girls at least a small taste of self-esteem. Even if their hit song Goosebumps sounds like it could have been recorded by any boy band since the 90s, that works for tweens.
Why does this “any boy band USA” work for tweens and teens alike? It’s seems to be this concept of individuality but also fitting in with the crowd. In a USA Today article about how retailers market to tweens, one of the traits they identified is that they are driven by imitation, wanting to look like everyone else but also themselves. Let’s table the boy band discussion, though I’m sure this is an important part of why tweens love boy bands (I would know, I was that age once and I think Hanson qualifies as a boy band). Instead, we can look at the blogs at allykatzz.com, which appears to be, from the outside at least, a thriving tween community. From this perspective, allykatzz.com works because everyone who signs up gets the same template but gets to play with the background and color scheme. If you thought there were limits to how creative you can get with just these superficial changes, you obviously have not checked out tween blogs like iGummiWorm’s, with its flashing tiger print or the more emo blog of futureauthorgreatfriend. You can tell that these tween girls are in the same age group but their interests and attitudes are different. This is evident from their designs and names, but also from their blog posts and the “Basic Info” section that all users fill out. My favorite question? “What’s the last good library book you cracked?” From their themes and names, you can guess which one is happy to answer this question. futureauthorgreatfriend reports “Silver, Norma Fox Maser” and though the author’s name is misspelled and I’d never heard of it, it’s a true to life tween book from the 1980s which is often reported as a YA favorite or favorite re-read on Goodreads. On the other hand, iGummiWorm answers the same question “Library? No. I borrowed “Miles to Go” by Miley Cyrus from a friend.” Yet this community allows for both of these girls, who do have some tragic things in common besides age–like the fact that neither of them have cell phones but both have already thought about what their ringtone would be.
The other content on allykatzz.com that really deserves to be discussed are the user-created ads. We all know that surfing the internet means seeing ads running up and down the sides of your favorite blogs and websites and popping-up when you try and purchase something online no matter how much ad blocking software you’ve installed. If you’re a tween, you may not even be in control of the adblocking software and your parents may not have installed it. But in this case, ads are good. Ads are a way for tweens in this community to talk to each other. No tween wants to get a blog and have it sit, unread on some random page on the internet. This doesn’t advertise just blogs like that of Miranda Cosgrove, star of iCarly, who has her own allykatz.com presence as a Music Machine featured artist. There are ads that invite you to go to certain girls’ blogs for “quests” or polls or even dating advice. Though I haven’t yet figured out what akidyouwish‘s advertised “quest” is, most of the ads are creative and invite communication. There is even an ads page to browse through and find contests, new BFFs, or polls like the cute piglet contest hosted by marie<3rocks‘. If you win, she’ll give you gifts, shout outs and a chibi drawing. (For more on chibi drawings, which I must admit I was confused by, check out this tutorial at Chibiland which turns Sailor Moon into chibi Sailor Moon.) The majority of these ads are inviting girls to talk to or compete with each other; either way, they are reaching out to their peers for guidance, advice and approval.
The entire allykatzz.com community looks, at least to my older eye, like a place where tweens can express themselves and interact in the digital world the same way tweens, young teens and kids in middle school have been doing for a long time. While those of us who didn’t have the internet as tweens might have given each other silly accessories, drawings or written notes, these girls are giving shout outs, virtual gifts and writing blogs for their friends to read. There’s more access to your thoughts; anyone can read it from your real life BFF to your new BFF in California to me and my classmates, but overall, I think these blogs allow for the same social networking that has always been present, just in a more concrete way, where you can see who has given gifts, shout-outs, etc. Whether that significantly changes how socializing works for tweens is certainly fodder for another blog post in the future.