While regulators, legislators and activists wring their hands about social media advertising and privacy issues, one important group -- teenagers, a.k.a. “the future” -- don’t seem to be particularly bothered about it, according to the results of a survey of 802 teens conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project in July-September 2012.
Just 9% of teens surveyed by Pew said they are “very concerned” that information they post about themselves might be available to third parties like advertisers and businesses, while 31% said they are “somewhat concerned.” Meanwhile 38% said they are “not too concerned” and 22% said they are “not at all concerned.”
Unsurprisingly, their parents aren’t nearly so blasé: 81% of parents polled by Pew in connection with the teen survey said they are “very” or “somewhat concerned” -- just about double the proportion of teens who expressed this level of concern; within this group, 46% of parents said they were “very concerned,” or five times the proportion of teens. Only 19% of parents said they were “not too concerned” or “not at all concerned” about their teens’ online privacy.
In general teens are sharing more information about themselves than before, Pew found: 91% of teens surveyed said they have posted a photo of themselves online in 2012, up from 79% in 2006, and 71% have posted their school name and where they live, up from 49% and 61%, respectively, in 2006. 53% said they have posted their email address, up from 29% in the previous survey, and 20% have posted their cell phone number, up from just 2% six years ago.
In terms of what kind of information they post online, 92% said they share their real name, 84% share their interests, 82% share their birthday, 62% post their relationship status, and 24% have posted video of themselves. 16% have set up their profile to automatically share their location in posts.
Teens are certainly aware of privacy issues: 60% of teen Facebook users say they keep their profiles private, and another 25% keep them partially private, allowing friends of friends to see what they post. Girls are more likely to have a completely private profile (70% of girls, versus 50% of boys), and boys are more likely to have a fully public profile (20% of boys, versus 8% of girls). Strategies to maintain privacy also include pruning their networks, with 74% saying they have deleted people from their list of friends, and 58% have blocked people. Inside jokes and cloaked messages (“speaking in code”) are also popular strategies to shield information, with 58% of teens employing these methods. Overall teens are confident in their ability to maintain their privacy: 56% of teens say it is “not difficult at all” to manage privacy, and 33% say it is “not too difficult.”