Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 14-year-old girl about to start my freshman year in high school. Most of my friends (including myself) have Web logs -- or "blogs."

Blogs are online diaries where we record all kinds of stuff about ourselves. Of course, we're careful not to give out personal information like where we live, etc. But some of my friends get very offended at what is written about them.

I have several friends who have stopped speaking to each other after reading not-so-nice things about themselves in the blogs. I speak from experience, because I've been repeatedly bashed for my anti-war views, among other things.

In spite of this, the Web log trend continues to be popular. What's your opinion on this? -- BLOGGIN' AND LOVIN' IT IN NEW JERSEY

DEAR BLOGGIN': The written word takes on a life of its own and never dies -- particularly in cyberspace. That is why it's important that a person carefully consider what he or she is posting before making it public. I cannot urge people strongly enough to remember that on the Internet there is no such thing as an eraser. The messages live on and on for all to see. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Allow me to give your readers a heads-up regarding a potentially embarrassing -- and possibly illegal -- situation they may encounter at their places of employment. I am talking about employees using their work computers and networks to conduct personal and private business.

As an information technology ("IT") security specialist, I can attest to the fact that almost everything an employee does on his or her work computer is monitored very closely, due to heightened security.

One of my responsibilities is to monitor e-mail that crosses the networks and investigate Web sites employees visit during the day. Believe me, I've seen it all! A few examples:

(1) Details between couples going through nasty divorces, as well as torrid love affairs. (The dialogue from even one of those messages could fuel a soap opera storyline for years!)

(2) The personal "measurements" and private "requirements" of individuals seeking a potential mate while checking out dating Web sites. (I will never look at certain employees the same way again.)

(3) The ridiculously overpriced items that people "had to have" on auction Web sites. (I could outbid individuals by a dollar each time they made a bid online and they'd never know.)

(4) How much money employees have in their checking and savings accounts, while conducting their online banking. (On more than one occasion, I knew that someone had bounced a check before he did.)

(5) Employees exploring pornographic Web sites. (You'd be amazed how many times I've had to begin an investigation into an employee because of something like this.)

Abby, IT security specialists are not nosy people. We are employed by the corporate and government worlds to ensure that highly valuable information and equipment is kept safe and secrets are not leaked. -- IT SECURITY SPECIALIST ON THE EAST COAST

DEAR SPECIALIST: I'm sure many employees in the corporate world will appreciate your wakeup call. I'll bet it spoils some fascinating conversations you "techies" have been sharing during lunch hour!

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $10 (U.S. funds)

to: Dear Abby -- Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64111; (816) 932-6600

More like Dear Abby