Teens, Social Media, and Privacy
A nationally representative phone survey of 802 parents and their 802 teens ages 12-17 conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project between July 26 and September 30, 2012. The findings were reported by Pew in collaboration with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. A survey that examined teens’ privacy management on social media sites
This report marries that data with insights and quotes from in-person focus groups conducted by the Youth and Media team at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University beginning in February 2013. The focus groups focused on privacy and digital media, with special emphasis on social media sites.
"We use “social media site” as the umbrella term that refers to social networking sites (like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Plus) as well as to information- and media-sharing sites that users may not think of in terms of networking such as Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr. “Teen social media users” are teens who use any social media site(s). When we use “social networking sites” or “social networking sites and Twitter,” it will be to maintain the original wording when reporting survey results." (Maden et al. 2013b)
"a portrait of teens who engage in a range of behaviors to manage the boundaries of their “social privacy” online. Far from being privacy indifferent, these youth are mindful about what they post, even if their primary focus and motivation is often their engagement with an audience of peers and family, rather than how their online behavior might be tracked by advertisers or other third parties."
Key findings include:
81 % from the sample (the majority) uses social networking sites. Eight in ten online teens now use social media sites. And the distribution goes like this:
- White, non-Hispanic (n=535) 81%
- Black, non-Hispanic (n=115)88%
- Hispanic (n=84) 77%
"Teens share a wide range of information about themselves on social media sites;1 indeed the sites themselves are designed to encourage the sharing of information and the expansion of networks. However, few teens embrace a fully public approach to social media. Instead, they take an array of steps to restrict and prune their profiles, and their patterns of reputation management on social media vary greatly according to their gender and network size."(2)
- Teens are sharing more information about themselves on social media sites than they did in the past. Compared to a survey done in 2006.
- The typical (median) teen Facebook user has 300 friends, while the typical teen Twitter user has 79 followers.
- On Facebook, increasing network size goes hand in hand with network variety, information
sharing, and personal information management.
- Focus group discussions with teens show that they have waning enthusiasm for Facebook,
disliking the increasing adult presence, people sharing excessively, and stressful “drama,” but they keep using it because participation is an important part of overall teenage socializing.
- 60% of teen Facebook users keep their profiles private, and most report high levels of
confidence in their ability to manage their settings.
- Teens take other steps to shape their reputation, manage their networks, and mask information
they don’t want others to know; 74% of teen social media users have deleted people from their network or friends list.
Teens are sharing more information about themselves on their social media profiles than they did when we last surveyed in 2006. Teens are increasingly sharing personal information on social media sites, a trend that is likely driven by the evolution of the platforms teens use as well as changing norms around sharing. A typical teen’s MySpace profile from 2006 was quite different in form and function from the 2006 version of Facebook as well as the Facebook profiles that have become a hallmark of teenage life today
- 91% post a photo of themselves, up from 79% in 2006.
- 71% post their school name, up from 49%.
- 71% post the city or town where they live, up from 61%.
- 53% post their email address, up from 29%.
- 20% post their cell phone number, up from 2%.
- 60% of teen Facebook users set their Facebook profiles to private (friends only), and most report high levels of confidence in their ability to manage their settings.
- 56% of teen Facebook users say it’s “not difficult at all” to manage the privacy controls on their Facebook profile.
- Teen Twitter use has grown significantly: 24% of online teens use Twitter, up from 16% in 2011.
Teens, like other Facebook users, have different kinds of people in their online social networks. And how teens construct that network has implications for who can see the material they share in those digital social spaces:
- 98% of Facebook-using teens are friends with people they know from school.
- 91% of teen Facebook users are friends with members of their extended family.
- 89% are connected to friends who do not attend the same school.
- 76% are Facebook friends with brothers and sisters.
- 70% are Facebook friends with their parents.
- 33% are Facebook friends with other people they have not met in person.
- 30% have teachers or coaches as friends in their network.
- 30% have celebrities, musicians or athletes in their network.
Users of sites other than Facebook express greater enthusiasm for their choice.
"Those teens who used sites like Twitter and Instagram reported feeling like they could better express themselves on these platforms, where they felt freed from the social expectations and constraints of Facebook. Some teens may migrate their activity and attention to other sites to escape the drama and pressures they find on Facebook, although most still remain active on Facebook as well."
"Teens take other steps to shape their reputation, manage their networks, and mask information they don’t want others to know; 74% of teen social media users have deleted people from their network or friends list. Teens are cognizant of their online reputations, and take steps to curate the content and appearance of their social media presence. For many teens who were interviewed in focus groups for this report, Facebook was seen as an extension of offline interactions and the social negotiation and maneuvering inherent to teenage life."
Pruning and revising profile content is an important part of teens’ online identity management. Teen management of their profiles can take a variety of forms – we asked teen social media users about five specific activities that relate to the content they post and found that:
- delete or edit something they posted
- deleted comments from others
- removed name from photos
- deactivated profile
- posted updates, comments, photos, or videos that they later regretted sharing.
74% of teen social media users have deleted people from their network or friends’ list; 58% have blocked people on social media sites. Given the size and composition of teens’ networks, friend curation is also an integral part of privacy and reputation management for social media-using teens. The practice of friending, unfriending, and blocking serve as privacy management techniques for controlling who sees what and when.
- On Facebook, increasing network size goes hand in hand with network variety, information sharing, and personal information management.(In this study 600 friends is reported as a large FB network)
Teens with larger Facebook networks are more frequent users of social networking sites and tend to have a greater variety of people in their friend networks. They also share a wider range of information on their profile when compared with those who have a smaller number of friends on the site. Yet even as they share more information with a wider range of people, they are also more actively engaged in maintaining their online profile or persona.
- Teens with large Facebook friend networks are more frequent social media users and participate on a wider diversity of platforms in addition to Facebook.
Teens with larger Facebook networks are fervent social media users who exhibit a greater tendency to “diversify” their platform portfolio.
- Few internet-using teens have posted something online that caused problems for them or a family member, or got them in trouble at school.
- Teens with larger Facebook networks tend to have more variety within those networks.
Almost all Facebook users (regardless of network size) are friends with their schoolmates and extended family members. However, other types of people begin to appear as the size of teens’ Facebook networks expand:
On the other hand, teens with the largest friend networks are actually less likely to be friends with their parents on Facebook when compared with those with the smallest networks (79% vs. 60%).
- Teens with large networks share a wider range of content, but are also more active in profile pruning and reputation management activities.
Teen internet access demographics: