When Does a YA Blogger Cross the Line?

2 August, 2013 Musing Musers 55 comments

HomerI’m going to state, flat out, that my gut reaction has always been to allow teenagers the opportunity to read what they want, and to decide for themselves what media is appropriate for them or not.  I don’t imagine I know what’s best for teenagers.  Being a media creator on the other hand, blurs the line a little.  Sure, it’s one thing to wave a hand and say, “Of course!  Let them read their cake… er, smut.  Whatever.”

It’s a totally different thing to be the one providing it.  I might not care if teens drink, do drugs or have sex – but I ain’t assisting in any of it!  Often on this blog, we like to blatantly ignore lines.  Decency, politeness, grammar and sense. But I was writing a post the other day discussing the worst promotional items to pair with young adult books.  I won’t go into details, but it got a little explicit.  I see other bloggers talking about restricting swearing and talk of explicit material out of consideration for teenage readers.  I have never considered it before.  Point of fact: my uncle twice removed is a buttswadled, dick-cheesed, ass-mouth.  And so’s your imaginary friend – after I took them out to Tony’s Seafood restaurant, ordered a $45 Lobster meal and didn’t call the next day!

You’re welcome.

But I know it’s a concern for other bloggers and for parents.  I imagine there’s a number of parents who probably hope their teenager doesn’t stumble across my blog and fall under my evil, corrupting influence.   Truth is, though, that teenagers represent a relatively small portion of Cuddlebuggery readers according to our site stats.  Not only is that probably because we’re a YA book blog aimed at adult readers, but also because teens actually do that self-censoring thing that I keep talking about.

What is the line you draw though?  Is it better to be true to yourself and your voice, hoping your audience can click the x button if they don’t like what they read.  But what line crosses over into indecency?  Total inappropriateness?  I don’t usually care, but since I started reading other people’s blogs, I feel like I suddenly want to be… somewhat respectable.

But failing that, because it is never going to happen, what are your opinions on this?

Kat Kennedy

Kat Kennedy

Co-blogger at Cuddlebuggery
Kat Kennedy is a book reviewer and aspiring author in the Young Adult genre. She reviews critically but humorously and get super excited about great books. Find her on GoodReads.
Kat Kennedy

55 Responses to “When Does a YA Blogger Cross the Line?”

  1. Fangs4Fantasy

    There are lines? Frankly I think with teenagers going out of one’s way to draw lines merely sets goals and challenges. People are less eager to cross the finish line at the Olympics than teens 
    (I do recall the many things various morality groups declared were so inappropriate for me as a teen – so I moved HEAVEN AND EARTH to get them! Flush with success, I cracked open my illicit, too-depraved-to-be-mentioned prize and… was really disappointed at how utterly utterly tame the forbidden fruit was. I was expecting ambrosia and I got apricot – bland bland apricot).
    “I see other bloggers talking about restricting swearing and talk of explicit material out of consideration for teenage readers”
    Have they met teenagers? I just boggle at the whole idea that teenagers are delicate fragile flowers who need to be sheltered from terribad inappropriateness. I’m actually far MORE concerned by misognist, racist, homophobic etc drivel being passed off unchallenged than ever I am by a swear word or some consensual humpage
    I don’t have a line – but then my day job tends to place a natural line on my… discourse anyway; nor am I naturally inclined to swear (I’m one of those people who gets more and more formal and polite the angrier you make me – until I sound like a  monarch planning an execution). I censor slurs (less to shelter people from them so much as to acknowledge the wrongness and power of the word) but other than that, on the rare occasion fuckery needs to be called fuckery, then fuckery it will be duly labelled.

    • snaugle81

      Fangs4Fantasy  I totally agree with Fang4Fantasy.  When did teenagers need to be so coddled?  You don’t think they are swearing?  Drinking?  Having sex?  A bunch of high schoolers ride the public bus with me in the morning and based on their conversations they are definitely NOT fragile flowers.  And yes, when so much emphasis is placed on the inappropriateness of swear words, the bigger picture is lost.  Also, you run a very successful and popular blog.  People read your blog because they enjoy what you have to say.  Don’t change that.  If someone is offended by what you have to say then they can choose not to read it.  It is not your job to police teen’s internet usages, especially since I bet those teens are using the exact same language you are!

  2. jaimearkin

    I post mostly about YA books… because that’s mainly what I read, but I also read those dirty adult books too.  What can I say, I can’t help it.  I even post reviews about them to my ‘mostly’ YA book blog.  I don’t feel bad about this, It’s properly tagged, and it’s always done on the same day of the week so as not to surprise someone.  
    I have confidence that, the ‘kids’ that may or may not be visiting my blog will be able to censor themselves. If it’s a book they aren’t interested in they can close the page.  I rarely put anything explicit in the actual reviews.  Plus I think if you start attempting to limit their access, they are just going to dig harder to get to it.  
    My 7 year old has been caught swearing…a lot.  And I promise it wasn’t me teaching him those words.  So it’s out there, at any and every age.   
    I just don’t think that I need to censor myself on my blog…especially since the content isn’t that risque when you  think about it. LOL

  3. ABookishHeart

    Oooh interesting post.  I think for me, I try to remain respectable on my blog not so much for teens, but for the sake of professionalism in general.  I would like to include my blog on my resume in the future, and wouldn’t want potential employers visiting my blog and being turned off my profanity, inappropriateness, etc.  I think that’s what keeps me monitoring my attitude more than anything else.  Not that I keep it completely professional though.  I’m pretty goofy and I curse every once in awhile.  It is what it is.

    But pshhh.  Don’t try to change Kat. You’re perfect the way you are.  😉

  4. Miranda

    Personally I try to keep my blog tone somewhat professional, not necessarily for the sake of teens but because, even though it’s a hobby, I still consider it a “business” of sorts. I think there are ways to remain true to yourself and your voice while also being professional. That being said, I do curse sometimes in my reviews, even though I try very hard not to.
    But honestly, anyone who thinks teens aren’t cursing themselves is kind of deluded. No, you probably shouldn’t assist with giving them, like, porn or anything, since you could go to jail for that, but if you believe they aren’t searching it out for themselves then I dunno what to tell you. ‘Cause they are.

  5. Kenya Wright

    This is a hard one. At one point there are no lines. Teens read erotic and whatever else they want to. . .at another point bloggers should legally protect themselves at least by placing one of those privacy entrance sections at the beginning of their post stating that there are explicit stuff in the post.
    It’s also important to know what your goal is as a blogger.
    Are you just talking about books for fun? Are you hoping this will be a business to get you to be a profession book reviewer? Do you eventually want to be a YA Author? If you say yes to the last two then you have to treat each post seriously and determine lines and not cross them.

    • ADStarrling

      Kenya Wright I agree with Kenya. I think the most important question to consider is what your goal is as a blogger. Once you have a clear answer to that (I’m doing this because I love reading and I want to share my passion/ I’m doing this as a professional business/ it’s a combination of both) then you will automatically determine the “voice” of the blog and it will be yours and yours alone. The people who like it will flock to it, the people who don’t won’t. You may have to censor some things  if you want your reviews to appear on certain sites that have a strict no-cursing policy (Christ, even Amazon wouldn’t let me upload a review once because I put one freakin’ swearword in it!), but apart from that, hey, I’m here ’cause I like your voice.
      As for teenagers and what they think/do/read these days, some of the stuff my nieces and nephews come out with has my jaw on the floor. Teenagers, heck, even 9 year olds these days know/do a HELL more than I did when I was their age. On the other hand, I did go to a Catholic girls’ school run by nuns 😉
      The only thing I would add is about what Kenya said re:becoming a published YA author. I think there’s a fine line between being a professional-toe the line-no cuss word shall cross my lips-author and being, well, a bit, of a bore. Your blogging voice should reflect your writing voice and your unique personality. I don’t think you should suppress who you really are and project a persona that is false. 
      I don’t have a blog but I’m keenly aware of what I put on my website. The reason is two fold. One, I made the deliberate decision that I would restrict my normal potty-mouthed real life speech because I want to be seen as a serious thriller author. Two, and this is a very important two, I quite clearly state in my bio that I’m still a practising Paediatrician. My colleagues obviously know my real name and I don’t make it a secret that I’m a writer. As such, I have to carefully consider what I say and write on my website. I hope that my personality still comes through minus the cursing 🙂 On the other hand, I’m a bit more loose tongued on Facebook!
      There are many YA authors who say it like it is and damn the consequences. There are some who are politically correct to the extreme. Do what you’re comfortable with.

  6. ValeriaAndreaBS

    Be yourself, use your words & who cares what others think, anyway?
    I’m 2 years beyond being called a teenager, still, I have not ‘grown up’ enough to change my mind about the subject; I’ve always found such censoring insulting (for teens & as a person who can make her own decisions) to the psyche.  
    As a media creator, you should stick with what you find comfortable, taking on account that (oh god, how to express it!) nobody gets hurt! Is a very personal option to go & read a post full of swearing or not, & its influence is just one tiny part of the whole spectrum of influence one person (teen or otherwise) will get. 
    I assure you, the average teen hears more disturbing things in one day on school than whatever sex/drugs/language you can find in one post.

  7. Kate C.

    Well, I have two viewpoints on this.  The first is as a reader (who was once a teen) and the second is as a mom.
    As a READER, I was reading the sexytimes stuff when I was like 11.  My mom had no idea and was rather shocked when she found out a few years later.  She banned me from them, but I snuck them anyway.  I mean, MY GOD, I was a horribly hormonal teen for heaven’s sakes.  Fact: teens will read what they want to and visit sites that they want to and there is nothing you, Kat, can do about it.  For every blog that restricts its language, I’m sure there are 50 gazillion more that don’t.  And if a teen doesn’t like the “clean” blogs, then they won’t read them.  Being sassy is YOUR STYLE and why should you change that when it is what made you popular in the first place (I’m thinking of the Hush,Hush review from your old website).  It would be like you suddenly deciding you want to review only westerns.  People would be scratching their heads and calling for psych tests.
    As a mom, well, yeah I care what my kids will read.  But it’s not YOUR job to make sure they’re reading what I approve of (which would be impossible anyway, cause you can’t read my mind).  It’s my job to educate my children, to form a trusting relationship with them, to encourage them to read stuff that is appropriate for their age.  Would I want my 13 or 14 year old reading some of your posts?  Hmmm… Probably not.  But it would be MY job to make sure that they’re looking in the right places for the types of stuff I want them to see.  And then it would be my job to let them loose on the internet and hope they care what I think.  And honestly, there is so much worse stuff out there for them to paste their eyeballs on, you’re so mild in comparison.  
    This is just my take on it.  
    Sidenote and totally off topic: Tell me your promotional materials post includes the whole “v-card” thing revolving around the Elementals series.  Man, that was so odd.  Like, you know that v-card is talking about SEX right?  Like the first time you have it, because if you haven’t had sex, then you still have your v-card?  It was just weird to see that in reference to a book series.  Yeesh.

    • Akilah

      Kate C. I 100% agree with this–as a reader, blogger, and mom. 
      Also, my daughter read 50 Shades of Gray (she’s 14) and was like, “WTF is this nonsense?” and quit reading it…at some point because she found it so inane. So, you know. Kids, man. They know their limits.

    • KatKennedy

      More like a smoking pipe, some hard liquor and a Didio for three different books.
      I love your take on it though. I know I’m very liberal as a parent. I don’t think I’d mind my own kids reading my blog – but I understand that most parents wouldn’t. We’re thinking of adding a tag line essentially saying we’re an Adult blog for Young Adult Readers. Just to make it more obvious.

  8. cynicalsapphire

    Ha, I do no censoring. I figure that without your voice, there’s not much of a point to the whole thing. I do try to keep most of my reviews relatively swear-free, just because I’m too lazy to edit them out when I cross-post. I wish I wasn’t, but I so am. Besides, I may have passed the line (is there ONE?) of charmingly foul-mouthed, so stepping back a little may be a good thing.
    Not to be unhelpful or anything, but I have no idea what crosses the line. Personally, when I was a teen, I totally read all the romance novels I could sneakily get my hands on (aka the ones my mom had in her personal collection), and watched movies with sex scenes and whatever and read A Clockwork Orange. There’s this one movie my parents love and that I grew up watching called Ruthless People. In one scene, a politician fucks a prostitute with giant boobs in the back of a car and some other people film it to blackmail someone. They show the boobs, and it’s not something one would think a young child should watch. Did it fuck me up? No. I don’t really remember that part from back then. I DO remember watching that movie when I was a bit older and going HOLY FUCK HAS THAT ALWAYS BEEN THERE? If you don’t understand something, you generally ignore it. 
    Teens are probably old enough to be managers of their own content-intake to a large degree. Probably as long as your book blog isn’t one of the raciest things on the internet, you’re good.

    • KatKennedy

      I read ALL the romance novels. Every one I could get my hands on. I won’t even discuss what Fanfiction I was reading at 13. Teenagers are such individuals – I think they need more credit for for being able to handle themselves. Having said that, I met a 16 year old the other day that simply COULD not handle anything. She was more naive and innocent then I was at 12. Personalities, man, kids have ’em.

      • cynicalsapphire

        KatKennedy Oh yeah, mileage varies, but I think that the naive girl would probably pick up books that work for her, and not ones that scar her for life. I’m sure exceptions happen sometimes, but, honestly, part of growing up is learning to deal with things even if you’re not ready. Do you think I’m ready to manage a household? HA. But I have to, so I do it. Were you ready for kids? Maybe, but I suspect most people aren’t and sort of can’t be, because you never entirely know what you’re getting into. With life, you learn as you go. Keeping someone in a bubble isn’t going to help them long term.

  9. LenaMarsteller

    KAT!!!  I love your blog just the way it is. Every blog has their voice, and your voice (Cuddlebuggery’s voice ) is one of a kind. 😀

  10. Annie07

    Well, coming from a teen who grew up with a dad known to drop an f-bomb here and there while driving, I think swearing is fine. Teens get exposed to curse words at school anyway and most likely on a whole other bunch of websites they visit. These days when you hear curse words pop up more often than not, wanting to shield your child from them is rather silly. I also don’t believe that there’s anything inherently wrong or bad about the words. Sure, they’re not appropriate but like anything else, it all depends on the context you’re using it in. 
    Explicit material is a much tougher topic to deal with because no one wants their child to learn about those things and see those things online. But you’re right, teens do have their own form of censoring. Going onto the internet has risks and we’ve probably all been told that by our parents. So you’re kind of venturing in the web at your own risk. Seriously though, a LOT of teens go online and watch porn which isn’t anywhere as bad as making some sexual references from time to time. And if they’re interested in porn or searching up that kind of stuff, they’re going to do it anyway whether you like it or not.
    Anyway, that’s just my two cents. I honestly don’t care if there’s swearing or some inappropriateness (if you couldn’t see that already)! 🙂

    • KatKennedy

      Lol. My 2 year old yells “Fuck!” When the alarm clock in the morning. Oops… But yeah, I agree with you.

  11. Kara_M

    I never honestly thought about it that much before. I swear on my blog occasionally, but I never thought about censoring for teen readers. I try to be a bit professional as I also get editing jobs through that blog, so I guess I censor a little for that, but I figured that most of my readers were over 18 anyway. And I have to trust that those that aren’t know what is appropriate and what isn’t. I know how I acted when I was a teen, and I think most of the teenagers that are enjoying reading are pretty damn intelligent anyway. So what I am saying is don’t change a thing!

    • KatKennedy

      And I shan’t. I don’t really have much of a reason to be professional. I have no business ties to this blog, I don’t get work from it. So I think I’ll continue in my crass ways.

  12. Chantelle

    I try not to swear in my reviews, simply because like one of the other commenters, I am too fricking lazy to edit that out when I cross post to places like goodreads and netgalley. Other than that, teens are going to hear a lot of swearing from their friends at school and it’s not your responsibility to censor yourself for other people.

  13. Deb E

    I think the kinds of teens who would be coming to your blog aren’t at risk of taking up swearing for a lack of alternative vocabulary… And I suspect they’re smart enough to decide whether or not they want to use such language in their every day settings – and I bet they decide how to talk around their parents vs at school vs just hanging with friends.
    I think, if you continue in your own voice, you won’t break the internet.

  14. Christina @ Christina Reads YA

    I don’t censor much. I censor spoilers. I censor myself when I feel like I’ve gone off on a terrible tangent and am so angry with a book that I’m not actually reviewing the book (happened once). It’s easy to tell whether someone’s voice in a blog is something that you’ll identify with, or, if you are a concerned parent, that you’ll want to block. There are certain blogs that do cater to the younger crowd, that have “clean” reviews and feature “clean” titles and rate based on sexual and violent content. I’m a huge believer in personal choice, though. The internet is wide and free; if someone thinks you curse too much, he/she doesn’t have to follow you. How many book bloggers are there out there? And personally, for that very reason, I think it might be a little naive to try and block all the blogs that might fall one way or another. But that’s just me. Potentially there is a book blogger directory for those who are more sensitive to that kind of thing, and if there isn’t, those who are concerned could start one?

    • KatKennedy

      Yeah, there are plenty of blogs that cater to younger readers – this just isn’t one of them. I’ll be the first to admit this blog is actively aimed at the over 18 crowd.

  15. alexiareads

    I don’t censor. Plain as that. If someone doesn’t like the language that I am using,then they don’t have to follow my blog.With that said though I rarely curse in my reviews. I write pretty much how I talk. That’s always been my thing. I would always say if a personal friend of mine can’t recognize me through JUST my blog,then either I’m not writing like me OR I’m not that close to this particular friend.
    My point is Kat,don’t change unless YOU want to make a change. The fact is you have a very popular blog and if someone doesn’t like it,then they don’t have to follow it.

    • KatKennedy

      I don’t want to change. I like being wildly inappropriate. It feels more natural.

  16. TTLGreviews

    I think it is important to keep a standard on content, but as far as exposure with teenagers reading the content? I wouldn’t be concerned about it. I am a YA book blogger and a teen. Being in a high school environment is just about as profane as you can get, so I doubt we are exposed to anything new anyway.  The fact that someone my age is even reading a YA book blog is something to be praised in itself. Personally, I think that if we were reading censored content and always allowed limited exposure, some teens would go find it somewhere else.

    • KatKennedy

      I agree. I won’t even mention the things I was doing and experiencing at 14. A few naughty words couldn’t compare with that.

  17. Janita

    I don’t believe that teenagers are less-capable than adults to “censor” themselves. They don’t just turn 18 and suddenly realize, I can read a blog post that has swearing and not swear myself! This idea that teenagers are uncontrollable and easily manipulated by the media is so highly perpetrated by our culture, but it doesn’t make sense! We are always equally swayed by the media, but we all have the same capacity to be aware of it as well, teenagers and adults. Words only have power if you allow them to.

    • KatKennedy

      This is true and thus why I have never before even tried to censor myself. Besides, I don’t actually think swearing is inherently bad.

  18. Charlotte

    As much as I want to swear in my blog, I couldn’t.  There might come a time that people from the office or prospective employers will stumble upon my blog.  And whohooo.  They might condemn me for it being the hypocrite righteous they are.  I’m already contented reading your expletives though. 😀

  19. anothernovelread

    You know, I think I’ve been drawing a line, but for different reasons. Like you, I don’t think I’ve really put much thought into the fact that I may have teens reading my blog. (That is, until I met a couple of bloggers and discovered they’re teens.) I think a lot of my self censoring is more for a preservation issue. Preservation of my ass. I work as a professional, and I (and my company) deal with a lot of people. If anyone were to find my blog and realize it’s ME, I’d want to be sure I’m not going to get in any kind of trouble for whatever might be on my site. (This HAS actually happened to me in the past, when I was a young, naive 19. So maybe I’m extra cautious now.)

    • KatKennedy

      See, I’ll swear on my personal blog but I find I try really hard to keep misogynistic and abelist labels off more and more. I know I’m not perfect at it, but this is the content I think is more damaging.

  20. fiktshun

    As far as blogs I read, I don’t judge. I actually don’t really think about whether they’re being appropriate or not for certain age groups. I suppose if they were middle-grade or pre-K book bloggers I’d probably find it a bit odd that they’d be spewing out curse words or talking sex. But I don’t think much of it for the blogs I read. And it would take a LOT for me to be disturbed by language or someone’s sexy bits.
    As far as my blog, I like to think I speak in my own voice on my YA blog. But I do keep it language-free and I keep the topics age-appropriate, or at least what I think is age appropriate. I approach it like this – if I’d feel weird talking to a teen (13 or older) about certain subjects or using certain language, then I won’t do it on that particular blog. I do not go by what I was doing or saying at age 13 and up as I loved to curse frequently, loudly, and as often as I could get away with when I was a young teen. But as an adult I couldn’t imagine chatting with a teen as I would someone in my age group.
    But I don’t think I’m being disingenuous. And I don’t feel I’m censoring myself in any way. I have different voices. I don’t speak the same way at work with my colleagues as I do with friends. I keep things at work professional. If I launched a string of curses when I was pissed, I’d likely find myself cursing on the unemployment line.
    I hadn’t thought much about it, though, other than maintaining a level of professionalism, until a tween-aged blogger mentioned that they read my blog. It freaked me out a little as I assumed my audience was no less than 20 years of age.
    And for me too, my employer does know about my blogs and reputation is important to that job. So while I’d love to go on rambling rants on one of my non-YA blogs now and again, I don’t think I’d be willing to risk it at this point.
    So, originally it was about being professional, but now I think it’s a mix of both.

    • KatKennedy

      This is a great and thoughtful comment. I guess I don’t even have airs of professionalism. Would anyone buy it? Probably not! My employer also knows about my blog – they love it.

      • fiktshun

        KatKennedy Thanks. 🙂 I generally feel all professional when sitting down to book blog. Not entirely sure why as I used to have a blog that was all snark back in the day, though it had nothing to do with books. Of course I had no readers, so maybe that’s why. It’s easier to be snarky when you think no one is watching. Though I think it’s just that I don’t feel snarky about books. Film on the other hand….
        And while I think on a personal level my employer would probably get a kick out of me just being myself, as my company deals in crisis and reputation management it probably would reflect poorly  if I were to not think of my company’s reputation when being all public facing.
        That is so completely awesome that your employer loves your blog!

  21. Americanogig

    I love you.  Don’t ever change.  Face? Bovvered?  Face!  Bovvered?  I ain’t bovvered though.

  22. My Friends Are Fiction

    Your blog is perfect as is 🙂 I love your humor and I think every blogger can choose to be as they want. I tend to stay away from NA personally just because it’s not my taste but I love gore. *shrugs* To be honest I’m not sure how much thought I’ve given this topic–though I did get an email from an 8th grader and I was almost shocked that I had someone that young and someone not a blogger that checked out my site, haha. Love this post topic.

    • KatKennedy

      I shall do! TBH, I’ve never received correspondence from anyone younger 16 – so I doubt we even have many teen readers.

  23. bellesbookshelf

    I have to be honest, I have never even thought about it before. I write my blog for myself and I guess for other adult readers. I think as you say teens deserve a lot more credit for being able to make their own decisions and not have everything censored for them. Also I think there is a lot worse out there than dick jokes on a book blog. A lot.

    • KatKennedy

      I completely agree. I’ve seen a lot worse things. In the end, I’m not TOO bothered about it.

  24. Jessi (Geo)

    But Kat, we like you crass and uncouth! I suppose because inappropriate things don’t phase me at all (quite the contrary, I find them amusing…does that make me immature?), I have no problem with anything you post. I don’t think it’s offensive at all, but I have a pretty high tolerance. 
    I do, however, censor my blog content and a lot of my tweets/facebook posts…I try to steer clear of any kind of vulgarity or excessive cursing online (although in real life I admit I curse like a sailor) just in case, for that small portion of my audience that are younger or more innocent.

  25. Nikki

    Ahaha I always feel awkward when I accidentally cuss in front of parents. Especially *my* parents. I’m 13 and I cuss the most out of everyone I know so it’s sort of awkward. But sometimes cuss words just describe what you’re feeling SO well. I’m fine with most of the stuff in YA, NA, and sometimes adult (but dear Lord not anything like September Girls. That was disturbing)

  26. JuliaRainWellman

    Please don’t feel any obligation to censor yourself or change your blog! This blog is my favorite because of the personality and humor. I’d hate  to see that change.
    Also, I’d really like to see that  “worst promotional items to pair with young adult books” list. You can always put a warning!

  27. Stacking the Shelves #52

    […] Deadly Reviews talks about her book romance deal breakers. Kat Kennedy discusses whether or not you can cross the line as a YA blogger. Giselle at Xpresso Reads and Jenni at Alluring Reads talk about their review reading habits in […]

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