Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Are Your Teens Aware of Privacy and Do They Care?

Latest statistics from the wonderful world of Facebook show that teenagers are not really concerned about privacy at all. They share, like and comment on everything on Facebook.

The latest relaxation of the lifting of sharing restrictions on Facebook for 13 – 17 year olds has got parents worried. They fear that cyber bullying may become even more of a problem than it is now.

That is the view of the parents. But what about the teenagers? What do they feel about privacy and is their idea of privacy different from ours?

The American Life Project reported just a few months ago that the figures for sharing among teenagers is quite alarming.  They targeted that very group that Facebook is now relaxing its restrictions. For example they found that:-

  • no problem about sharing photos – 91% do it
  • like sharing videos too – around 25%
  • vast majority post their real name – around 90%
  • birthdays are also shared – over 80%
  • school they go to and their town – around 70%
  • birthdays are also popular – about 80% have no issues about this one
  • cell phone numbers are shared  but that is only about 20%
  • around half of them will share their email address

In the UK, the figures and trends are following a similar pattern to those in the States.  The case of Paris Brown who lost a £15,000 a year job as a youth police commissioner should be borne in mind.

She was forced to resign after her Twitter comments (made when she was aged between 14 and 16) were found to be racist, homophobic and violent.  The alarming fact is that her Twitter account was not included in the vetting process before she was offered the job.

The teenagers’ idea for privacy is not so much to do with sharing actual data as the above figures show. They are not worried that future employers or others may use the data against them in a not so distant future.

Their management of privacy settings is easy for them and about 60% said that they were managing this quite well and that they were able to ban people and delete posts and so on. 

Their real worry is not about companies or government agencies gathering hard data about them but what their inner circle may actually see on their profile. Many of the profiles contain lies so they are much more worried about the figures of authority who are around them such as parents and teachers. There could be consequences for them down the line and that is their main concern.

Strategies teens use on the Internet


  • about 25% admitted to using a false name
  • information is often coded so that prying parents are kept in the dark
  • inside terminology and jargon allow them to communicate with each other
  • in jokes are used a lot

These strategies show that teenagers are keenly aware of some of the privacy issues but their priority is to be seen hanging out with the right group of friends and looking for peer acceptance. They are aware of how this information may be used against them so they will delete tags when they see fit.

The use of snapchat is encouraging in that any pictures and videos sent will be deleted automatically after a certain time frame which they can set.

So, the picture is not all bleak, fortunately. Teens are aware of the need for privacy and would put that first if there was to be a choice about finding about anti-terrorist groups. Interesting!

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