Pew Research Study Looks At Where Teens Go For Internet Privacy Advice
August 15, 2013

Pew Research Study Looks At Where Teens Go For Internet Privacy Advice

Enid Burns for - Your Universe Online

If recent revelations about privacy, or a lack of privacy, have taught us anything, it's that we must manage the privacy settings for our online and mobile activities carefully. While there isn't much that can be done about the NSA monitoring our email and online activities, there are settings that can prevent those outside of our circles from viewing our posts and photos on social networks.

While privacy is important to teens, many in the 12 to 17 age group ask friends and family for advice on privacy settings on various social networks and other online platforms. A new report -- "Where Teens Seek Online Privacy Advice" -- released by Pew Research Center, looks into how teens make decisions on privacy settings.

Friends and parents are the top sources for privacy setting advice, the report authors found. Of those surveyed, 42 percent asked a friend or peer for advice on how to manage online privacy; 41 percent asked a parent; and 37 percent asked a sibling or cousin. Other sources for privacy setting advice include researching on a website (13 percent); a teacher (9 percent); or another person or resource (3 percent).

"In total, some 70 percent of teen internet users have asked for advice or looked for resources on how to manage their privacy online, with the remaining 30 percent saying they have not specifically asked for or sought out this type of advice in the past," the report said.

Age plays a factor on the balance between seeking advice or figuring settings out on their own. Seventy-seven percent of younger teens, those ages 12 to 13, are more likely to seek advice from any source compared to 67 percent of older teens.

While the survey results show that teens do ask for advice, in focus groups teens showed they are more independent when it comes to setting up privacy on websites and other platforms.

"While a majority of teens say they have asked someone else for advice about privacy at some point along the way, our focus groups show that in day-to-day use, many teens rely on themselves and the resources provided by the platforms they use," the report said.

The good news is that teens are aware that privacy settings change and it is necessary to review the settings from time to time and adjust controls. Teens do teach themselves through reading the settings, and through trial and error. Many teens also use the pop-up tutorials and messages that share information about settings.

Behaviors between the advice seekers and self-reliant teens that set their own privacy preferences are similar. Facebook profiles are kept public by 12 percent of teens who seek advice, and 19 percent of those who don't. Profiles are set to partially private by 25 percent of advice-seeking teens, and 24 percent of self-reliant teens. Facebook profiles are set to private, where only friends can see posts, by 61 percent of advice seekers and 56 percent of self-reliant teens.

Pew Research Center conducted a nationally representative phone survey of 802 parents and their 802 teens ages 12 to 17. Focus groups were conducted in collaboration with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard. In total, 24 focus group interviews with a total of 156 participants were conducted for the report.