Teens Are Taking Better Control Of Online Privacy
May 22, 2013

Online Privacy And Reputation Are Becoming More Of A Concern For Teens

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Teenagers are wising up to the risks of sharing too much personal information on social media, and are increasingly taking formal and informal steps to protect their online privacy, according to a report released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center.

The report, entitled “Teens, Social Media and Privacy,” is based on focus group interviews and telephone surveys of 802 youths ages 12 to 17, along with their parents.

The survey found that while teens are revealing more of their personal information online, they are also making better use of social media privacy tools.

Compared with surveys taken in 2006, the current survey found that teens were much more willing to disclose personal details about themselves, such as their school name (71 percent), city of residence (71 percent), email address (53 percent), personal photos (91 percent) and cell phone number (20 percent).

One big reason for this difference is that Facebook was just coming into broad use in 2006, said Pew researcher Mary Madden, co-author of the report.

However, the study also showed that teens take additional steps to protect not only their privacy, but also their online reputations as well when using social media, with 61 percent having decided at some point not to post something because it might reflect badly on them in the future.

Additionally, 59 percent of those surveyed said they had deleted or edited something that they posted in the past, while 53 percent had deleted comments from others on their profile or account.

Nearly half, or 45 percent, have removed their names from photos tagged by others, while 31 have deleted or deactivated an entire profile or account.

Sandra Cortesi of Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, which conducted focus groups used in the report, said the results showed that teens have somewhat of a “filter in their brain” when deciding what to post, due to awareness of possible consequences imposed by adults on Facebook.

“This awareness is a motivation for teens to self-regulate the distribution of content [and] results in self-censoring,” Cortesi told the Washington Times.

Pew researcher Mary Madden also said parents played an important role in teenagers´ online privacy.

"We repeatedly heard kids saying that they knew their parents were watching," she said.

But Larry Magid, co-director of the non-profit group ConnectSafely.org, which educates families about online safety, said kids are thinking about more than just their parents.

They are "thinking about whether this is something I'd want my grandmother, a college administrator, an employer or a future boyfriend or girlfriend to see,” he told USA Today.

"Teenagers are not nearly as oblivious to the implications of sharing too much information as many adults think they are," he said.

"This idea that young people will post anything is not true."

The survey also revealed that relatively few teens take any steps, such as setting up dual accounts or blocking access to some posts, to prevent their parents from seeing what they are sharing.

Nevertheless, parents in the survey expressed some concerns over the issue of online privacy, with 49 percent saying they worried about their children's online reputations, and 53 percent saying they are very concerned about their children interacting with strangers.

The survey revealed some demographic differences among teenagers who use social media. Older teens (aged 14 to 17) are more likely than younger teens (aged 12 to 13) to share personal details, while boys are significantly more likely than girls to share a cell phone number (26 percent vs. 14 percent). Girls are more likely than boys to choose private settings.

Black teenagers are less likely than white teenagers to disclose a real name (77 percent vs. 95 percent), and are more likely to use the microblogging site Twitter.

Overall, the survey found that teens are taking effective steps to avoid oversharing content on Facebook, but continue to use the site as “an important part of overall teenage socializing.”

Despite the good news that teens are taking better control of their online privacy, the news is not all good, with teens apparently unaware and uninterested about third-party access to their personal data. Just nine percent said they were “very concerned” about businesses or advertisers gaining access to their private, personal information without their knowledge.

Among the other findings in the current report were:

• 94 percent of teens who use social media use Facebook, with 81 percent saying it is the site they use most often.

• When spending time on Facebook, 60 percent of the teens surveyed said they use the highest privacy setting, which allows their posts to be seen only by friends. Another 25 percent allow posts to be seen by friends of friends and just 14 percent have public pages.

• On Twitter, 24 percent post only to approved followers.

• Most of the teens surveyed said they are knowledgeable in using Facebook´s privacy settings, and routinely check them.