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Teens Online Privacy


Responding to concerns about security, privacy and teens’ use of social media, the Pew Internet & American Life Project has released, “Where Teens Seek Online Privacy Advice,” the fourth in a series of reports undertaken by the Pew project in collaboration with Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

Employing a combination of online surveying and focus group interviews, project researchers found that many U.S. teens ages 12-17 generally rely “on their own wits, observations and knowledge to manage their privacy online and on social media,” according to a report summary.

In large part, many figure out how and determine their privacy settings and sharing practices by working through social media apps and platforms upon signing up or through subsequent searching and use.

In addition, 70% of U.S. teen Internet users have sought outside advice regarding managing some aspect of their online privacy, often relying on advice and guidance of friends, parents or other close family members, according to a nationally representative survey conducted by the research partners.

According to the report, when it comes to teens, online sharing and privacy:

  • 42% have talked to friends or peers
  • 41% have talked to a parent
  • 37% have asked a sibling or cousin

The researchers found that girls are more likely than boys to have asked for outside and 12-13 year olds more likely than older teens to have spoken with their parents about social media, sharing and online privacy.

Zooming in on U.S. teen privacy on Facebook, the research revealed that the majority of teens set their profile to fully or partially private whether or not they said they had asked for outside help on how to manage their privacy online.

Those who did seek outside advice tend to be more discriminating, and more likely to limit what certain friends are permitted to see on their own friend networks, however. Those that said they had not sought outside help were more likely to allow all their friends to see the same things.

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