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Lauren, A Young Internet User in 1996

youngblogger.jpgLauren told me to scrounge around for her photo as a 10 year old using the computer because it was needed for a magazine article. As some of you might know, Lauren started an online journal (not called blogs then) on December 1996 so the photo had to be around that time. Oh no! It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. For days, I poured over stacks of photos because I have not been organizing them for the past 12 years. I finally found the photos of her in various poses with the computer. My geeky little Lauren.

Lauren was 9 years old while M was 8 years old when I had an internet connection at home. Between the 2 girls, Lauren used the internet a lot more than M. My internet service provider in 1995 was Virtual Asia. For 500 pesos a month, I had 15 internet hours. Geesh, it was terribly expensive to get wired during those days. The internet at home was mainly used for email purposes as I wanted to save my precious internet hours. One summer day in 1996 , 9 year old Lauren got bored and demanded to go online to search for penpals. I foresaw the need to strike a balance for the wonders of the internet with the responsibility for accountability, self-discipline, and safety. The best defense I had was to make exploring the online world a family affair. Together, we surfed and discovered two kid sites , the and What caught their interest in kidscom was the graffiti wall that served as a chat room but it wasn’t in real time. The kidspub was a fun place to submit writings. Lauren was raring to get her creative juices started with the kidspub. The thing was they wanted her to submit the articles in HTML.

What is HTML? Can you teach me? I asked my computer supplier. He said we needed to learn HTML on our own. There were no tutorials that time but the site showed the HTML codes. Both of us learned HTML by trial and error using the site. One day , she decided to start her own keypals club together with her online friends from kidscom which eventually found a permanent home at World Kids Network. This is going to cost money, I thought. I called up Virtual Asia to negotiate for free internet time just so Lauren could build her site. Fortunately, they granted her all the hours she needed. (Virtual Asia sponsored Lauren from 1997-2000 until we got cable internet in late 1999). That same year, she wrote her first journal entry in raw HTML code.

I got invited to head the Internet Safety section of World Kids Network and was assigned the name Robotica. (so yes, I might have entered late in the Philippine Blogosphere scene but I’ve been quietly working in the sidelines) The internet was such a novelty during those days that parents were both afraid and excited about its benefits for the kids. (The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) , a United States federal law was enacted only in 1998. ) The World Kids site gathered parents from all over the world to contribute to the guidelines for young internet users. The website owners taught us how to use the File Transfer Protocol and develop web pages. From that training, we in turn taught the kids on how to develop their clubs and correct any grammatical errors or spelling in their sites. How else will they learn, right?

youngblogger2.jpgMeanwhile in the Philippines, word got around that Lauren started a Keypals Club International (KCI) . It piqued the interest of 5 and Up, a local kids show. The reporter interviewed Lauren on how she started her club. They weren’t interested in her online journal back then. Static websites were the trend in the mid-nineties .

youngblogger1.jpgThe reporter asked Lauren to demonstrate the use of the to surf…how to chat…After the segment, Lauren lamented “Oh they just interviewed me because it’s cute to watch a 10 year old surf the internet”. How true. Even Lauren’s homeroom teacher chastised her for talking about the internet. I believe the teacher was just ignorant or intimidated about it. After all, in 1996, there were only 12,000 internet users in the Philippines. Lauren felt like an alien talking about the wonders of the internet while her teacher gaped at her in disbelief. In 1996, it wasn’t cool to be online. Think loserdom. In her autobiography for a school requirement, Lauren sadly wrote:

The bad part about the Internet was that everyone in my fifth grade class thought that I was some weirdo that just stepped out of a UFO and said, ““Welcome to technology.” And to make matters worse, my homeroom teacher made everything twice as complicated as it was.

One time, I was just looking down and she said, ““You’re sleeping again.” I couldn’t say I was only looking down on the floor because she might go on and on and make a speech there on talking back to teachers. So I said, ““I slept late last night.” Then she said, ““Thinking of your computer again?”

Hel-lo?! Just because I had a computer doesn’t mean that I think about it every spare moment of my time!! People like her made me so mad. And some of my classmates always asked me, ““How’s your computer?” Blah, blah, blah.

youngblogger4.jpgA few months later, PROBE Team called 11 year old Lauren for a Generation Net segment conducted by Howie Severino. Lauren wrote in this journal entry .

Anyway, the PROBE reporter, Howie Severino asked moi how I started KCI and the difference between the ‘Net and real life. Of course, most of you know how KCI started so I wouldn’t go into that one. But you don’t know the answer to question #2 so I’ll say it. In real life, I’m shy whenever I just get introduced to someone. But in the Net, when I get introduced to someone, I’m in my super yakking power.


After the segment was aired, Lauren wrote a short article about it on her website Generation Next, Generation Net:

A decade ago, the world was totally different. Nail polish were red or pink, those little peace signs were everywhere, everyone were wearing flowers all over their clothes and the Beatles rocked the house. Now, nail polish are in practically any colour, smileys are everywhere and Boyzone rules. Now the people from the last decade says we’re the generation next. Is it true? It sure is. And we’re not just the generation next but the generation net.

youngblogger3.jpgToday, Lauren and the generation net kids are in their early twenties. Yet I often wonder if exposing Lauren to the internet at a young age helped mold her character and personality in a positive way. Sometimes I think she is too loud on the net. Then she appeases me “I am just loud online but, I’m really conservative”. I get comfort in the thought that my 2 girls were guided properly in the use of the internet and have the advantage of being exposed to global thinking , varied ethnicities , cultures and religion which they might not have learned in the classroom.

Lauren often tells me she is neither “Traditional Filipino” nor “Western” in her thinking. I believe it’s good combination to imbibe the positive traits of cultures around the world. As I ponder about all my misgivings, I just realized that everything I learned about the internet, my online business and blogs was because of Lauren.

So you see? That’s an example of what the generation gap does. I think what you should do to avoid this is to let your folks know about what’s going on! Like about the latest in music, fashion, sports, etc. It’s going to take some time but soon, your parents will finally accept it. And they’ll be able to understand you better.

21yearoldLaurendado.jpgMy then 10 year old Lauren taught me a lot about being a mother in this technology-driven digital world. Is it any wonder that 12 years later, I am a 50 year old tech-savvy mom?

I am curious on how our moms in this Web 2.0 era conduct their internet activities with their kids? Do you surf and learn the technologies together?

23 thoughts on “Lauren, A Young Internet User in 1996”

  1. Smart Lauren your daughter is!

    Well, I chat with my daughter and son through YM. I’m not so tech savvy though, although I am learning along the way. Anyhow, my daughter and I are also thinking of putting up a mom-daughter partnership blog. Will this qualify me already as a cool mommie? 🙂

    These are nice, nostalgic photos, Noemi! I’m glad you were able to find them. I too, have stacks of unorganized photos, – boxes of them! and I don’t know how to begin storing them in albums.

  2. smart girl ! you must be very proud.

    and i must say, i admire your being a mother. you couldve just banned her from the computer and enrolled her in a hobby class or something. but you didnt mind the cost, and even became robotica.

    in my house, my 6-year old can use the computer as long as it’s and other kiddie educational sites. wala pa kami sa stage na “mommy, i want to chat, then blog, then i want to eb.” hindi ko pa alam how i would handle that 😀

  3. I think you made the best parenting move by encouraging Lauren and immersing yourself in what she was interested in so you could protect her at the same time. Lauren is a gifted child. Telling her “no” that day would’ve been a big mistake. She was developing and craving for more knowledge. You provided it for her, in a very careful and intelligent way. Kudos to you and Butch. Now look at her. Such a savvy, smart(ass)..LOL, articulate young woman you got there.

    My son is 9 and he started with the internet when he was 5. But mostly computer games with Disney and Nick jr. And using photoshop to cultivate his love for Art nd graphics. He’s asked me a few times to teach him how to create a website so we might have to sit one day and open Dreamweaver 🙂 .

  4. Wow, how I wished my mom is as tech-savvy as you are. Hehe.

    It’s my dad who introduced me to using the computer and the Internet. But I guess he slowed down in trying to keep up with the technology so now, it’s me who’s teaching me the new stuff. Maybe someday I can convince him to start his own blog. Hehe. But then I don’t want him reading mine. Too much information. Hahaha.

  5. LOL @ #10 !

    Hey I know the 5 and up reporter in the first pic.. Just messaged her.

    My dad doesn’t know anything about computers and sometimes has trouble using his simple cellphone. My mom knows email and some surfing.

  6. Hi, Robotica! hehe
    It’s nice to read on how Lauren and you got started on the internet. Look where you both are now!

    Recently, I set up Pat’s Blogger blog. It was fun working with her – looking for templates, fixing the sidebar, editing her posts. In a way, it’s good training for her grammar and tech-knowledge. In school, she is quite ahead of her classmates in Computer class. It’s always good to start the kids early. Basta proper guidance lang – I limit her PC time to weekends. And yes, I briefed her on internet safety.

  7. @ladycess= at 6 years old , playing at kid sites is age appropriate. They may want chatting starting at 10 years old. I balanced her internet activities with piano lessons and singing lessons .

    @dexie-Photoshop is a great idea. I remember teaching Marielle photoshop at 11 and now she is much better than me.

    @prudence- I think your dad will like the idea of blogging. Try it

    @lauren- Ugly? hehe. You’re my precious girl.

    @miguel- Oh really…i wonder if she remembers interviewing Lauren

    @Chateau- I believe that blogging gave lauren the discipline in writing which she would not have gotten from school. At least you are there to guide Pat.

  8. I wish I could learn computer tech together with my college kids too. They’re both tech-savvy and creative but have no free time to spare and teach me yet — because of school loads. Hopefully, this coming sem break. Basic lessons on how to improve my blogging would be a great 50th birthday gift for me:)

  9. Trixie (12yo)just started with her blog but even way before then, we have discussed about cut-and-paste actions and how it should not be done and why. We also discuss about not revealing personal information since there are a lot of predators out there. Julian (6yo) had his email when he was 5yo or even less. There are times that he chats with the people in his contacts like relatives. Sometimes he says, “I like to Google images” photos of his favorite cars. Sigh. Kids sure do grow up too fast these days.

    Lauren looked cute in her photos, 🙂

  10. Lauren was so cute!

    know what? my kids started using the DOS program 16 years ago. Steffi was 4 or 5 years old. It wasn’t popular then because it wasn’t easy to operate. They used DOS for four years. My husband allowed them to have access on the internet when windows became available in my household and that was in 1997. Several years later, Steffi stumbled on Lauren’s site.

  11. @amomandmore- ahh yeah, I want to learn podcasting but my daughter has no time to teach me. Boo. I hope your kids get to teach you more blogging skills.

    @julie- ah the interactive Web 2.0 is definitely more attractive to kids these days. Good you lay down the rules. It’s best to start them early.

    @Belle- yes the kids started with DOS too. They loved those DOS games like Ecoquest, and Oregon Trail

  12. Hi Noemi. I enjoyed reading this post.

    I admire Lauren’s intelligence, creativity and good vision of the future. Remarkable traits of a good leader.

    I admire how you supported, encouraged and inspired her in making the best out of her creative juices. Remarkable traits of a wonderful mother.

  13. @rach- during those days, I was not too sure if I did the right thing for showing her the wonders of the internet. Like I wrote earlier, there were not many mothers I knew that had internet. Year later, I can see the positive effects outshine more than the negative effects.

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