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How teens perceive privacy risks on social media

There is a notion that young people care less about privacy on social media and do not think twice before sharing personal details. Is it true? And, if the one of the main reason for such behavior is age, are older ones less likely to share private information?

A study titled, Why concern regarding privacy differs: The influence of age and (non-)participation on Facebook, published in Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace tried to explain “differences in reported privacy concern between young and old and users and nonusers of social networking sites [social media network sites].” Here’s what it found.

But before we delve into it , we need to familiarize ourselves with how people perceive the concept of privacy and  risk-benefit trade-off — two things that could hold the key.

The privacy calculus

The study argues that, “In order to obtain the benefits that social networking sites can offer, individuals need to share information and in so doing they will hence make themselves vulnerable to privacy risks as a consequence of sharing personal information on a (semi-)public forum”

As a result, people who expect bigger benefits out of social networking sites tend to share more information than those who do not. And, people who are not a part of the network will tend the weigh the risks more than the potential benefits.  

Secondly, how different age group perceive the concept of privacy?

Not surprisingly, it found that more adolescents associated privacy with situations involving relationships, for example being able to be alone with a partner or friend. And, relatively more adults associated privacy with those situations that involve personal information.

Social media, privacy and age

The results show that the relationship between participation in social networking sites and concern was mediated by a risk-benefit trade-off; while that between age and concern was mediated by privacy conceptions.  

The popularity of social networking sites wax attributed to the many potential benefits of participating and sharing information on such sites and that it tilted the balance against privacy risks.

The differences in concern, regarding privacy, between young and old were partially mediated by differences in privacy conception.

Among the more important findings was that the conception of privacy among young and old is generally of developmental in nature and social media has only made the difference more apparent. It argues, “these results suggest that the differences in concern regarding privacy between young and old may always have existed and are of a developmental nature. Social media may, therefore, have served to make these differences become more apparent, rather than having actually caused generational differences in concern between young and old.”

Limitations of the study

The study clarifies that the data used for the study was collected in 2011, and could therefore be “considered dated.”

The study doesn’t take into consideration the attitudes and intentions while exploring in how conceptions are formed.

Reference(s):

Steijn, W. M. P., Schouten, A. P., & Vedder, A. H. (2016). Why concern regarding privacy differs: The influence of age and (non-)participation on Facebook. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace.

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