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How Teens Use Social Media

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U.S. teens are sharing more personal information on social media sites than ever before, but while they are taking both technical and non-technical steps to protect their privacy, they are not overly concerned about third parties accessing their data, according to a new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Just 9% of teens surveyed expressed a high level of concern about third parties, such as businesses or advertisers, accessing the personal data they share on social media sites, according to the Pew Project’s “Teens, Social Media, and Privacy” report.

According to the report, teens are sharing more information about themselves on their social media profiles than they did when Pew researchers last conducted such a survey in 2006, as data included in a press release show:

  • 91% post a photo of themselves, up from 79% in 2006
  • 71% post their school name, up from 49%
  • 71% post the city or town where they live, up from 61%
  • 53% post their email address, up from 29%
  • 20% post their cell phone number, up from 2%

A majority of teens (60%) are setting their Facebook profiles to private (meaning only their ‘friends’ can view their private information. Most teens also report they have “high levels of confidence in their ability to manage their settings,” according to Pew Project researchers. When it comes to privacy, the Pew research finds:

  • 56% of teen Facebook users say it’s “not difficult at all” to manage the privacy controls on their Facebook profile
  • 33% Facebook-using teens say it’s “not too difficult”
  • 8% of teen Facebook users say that managing their privacy controls is “somewhat difficult,” while less than 1% describe the process as “very difficult”

While this data does show some encouraging news regarding teens and privacy with social media use, it also reveals a growing use of the medium to reveal even more personal information about themselves.  I believe teens need more guidance from friends, parents, and mentors regarding social media usage. Too many teens are sharing information on social media that is inappropriate and may harm them later in life with college, work, and other important future relationships.

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