Teens, and the Social Network Privacy Debate
By Heather Clancy
Anyone connected to teenagers on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or any one of the many other social networks where you (or they) choose to congregate will agree that the younger generation has a very different notion of privacy than their elders.
Indeed, a newly published Pew research survey about “Teens, Social Media and Privacy,” reveals that teens are significantly more likely to share certain types of personal information than just a few years ago. Here’s the rundown of what they’re sharing on their social profiles:
• 91 percent post photos of themselves, compared with 70 percent (circa 2006)
• 71 percent include their school name, versus 49 percent
• 71 percent post where they live, up from 61 percent
• 53 percent share their email address, up from 29 percent
• 20 percent offer their mobile phone number, up from 2 percent
The source of the more recent data is the Pew Internet Parent/Teen Privacy Survey, conducted in October-November 2012 among 802 teens, ages 12 to 17. The comparison set comes from a survey in late 2006 (roughly the same months) that reached about 490 teenagers who had a social profile online.
Setting aside your personal (or parental) feelings about whether teenagers’ concepts of social media privacy are a good or bad thing, there are other trends uncovered in the Pew research that should be of interest to marketers. In its report discussing the findings, the research organization notes:
“Few teens embrace a fully public approach to social media. Instead, they take an array of steps to restrict and to prune their profiles, and their patterns of reputation management on social media vary greatly according to their gender and network size.”
Here are some conclusions that I found particularly intriguing:
• Older teens (ages 14 to 17) were more likely than younger teens to share certain types of information, particularly photos and their school name.
• Twitter usage has grown significantly since 2011 (another year for which separate data was gathered): 24 percent of teens were on Twitter as of late 2012, versus 16 percent approximately one year earlier.
• 60 percent of teen Facebook users keep their profiles private, which is probably why they share so much information — they have a high degree of confidence that they can control who sees it. Indeed, about 56 percent of the respondents agreed that “it’s not difficult at all” to manage privacy controls.
• Close to 60 percent regularly revise or prune profile content as a means of shaping their online identity, especially by deleting or editing posts, removing comments or untagging photos that include their name.
• You can judge how frequently a teen will contribute to social networks by the size of his or her Facebook network.
Those with larger networks (more than 600 friends) tend to contribute more often (several times daily) than those who are more selective (fewer than 150 friends). In addition, they are more likely to maintain other social network identities. For example, teens with more than 600 Facebook friends were three times more likely than their peers to also have a Twitter account.
Download the entire Pew report on teens and social media.