Teens Like Their Privacy But Lack Social Media Filters

The latest revelation on teens and social media privacy from Pew Internet  Research revealed some interesting data. It seems that teens do like their privacy, which is puzzling to many who see daily accounts online of how teens are getting into trouble using social media. But do these two realities contradict each other, or are they two separate issues?

According to the new Pew stats on teens and mobile phone use, just over half the respondents avoid certain mobile apps because of privacy concerns. Many (26%) have deleted an app because they learned it was collecting private information they did not want to share. And 46% had turned off the location tracking functions of some apps on their phones. Although these stats indicate that the majority of teens may be savvy when it comes to guarding access to their private information, the data doesn’t address what may be the bigger problem: irresponsible sharing of information on social media.

There is a difference between having an aversion to third parties collecting your information and giving out personal, and even inappropriate information online yourself. Even though the data from Pew is good news to parents, teachers, coaches, and administrators everywhere, there is still much work to be done in the arena of defining responsible online behavior.

The online security software company McAfee released their Digital Deception Study in May 2013. The study found that the majority of kids know about the privacy dangers associated with the internet but may choose to ignore the dangers. Teens don’t want to share their information with people they do not know, but they seem more than willing to share inappropriate information on their social media channels when they believe they know who the audience is.

I shared the graphic below last week and it is worth another look. It shows that even though young people are aware of internet privacy dangers, there is a disconnect when it comes to actually using social media responsibly. The problem seems to be the inability to recognize certain practices as unsafe or inappropriate, such as sharing a phone number or home address online.


McAfee page 26

The McAfee report recommends frequent education and updates to get young people to take action on their own privacy settings. In other words, knowing does not necessarily equate to action, but frequency of information dissemination may help. Is it time for schools and universities to consider mandating basic social media responsible use training?

Parts of this article were taken from the new book, Practice Safe Social by Chris Syme, now available on

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