Teens, Privacy & Online Social Networks

Social networking sites appeal to teens because they provide instant communication, blogging, photos, music and video sharing, and a chance to post original creations. Currently, 93% of teens between 12 and 17 years old use the Internet, 61% of those teens use it daily, and 55% are on social networking sites.

A recent report by Lenhart & Madden (2007) from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, based on focus groups and telephone interviews conducted in 2006, had some good news about how teens are managing their privacy on social networking sites like MySpace. The results suggest that most households have rules about internet use, 75% of the computers used are in family spaces, and that parents are actively trying to keep their children safe online.

It was interesting to me that more than half of the teens who use social networking sites reported that they were not 100% truthful in their profiles and there was a lot of disagreement about what information was safe and not safe to share. Older teens shared more information and girls were more likely to share gossip. Boys were more likely to share their last names and cell phone numbers, and to use fake information on their profile. Girls are more likely to post photos and to restrict access to those photos.

The results suggest it is important to talk with teens about not trusting information in profiles and knowing who is linked to their pages.

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