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Between self-disclosure and privacy: How do young people protect their data?

Published on: 09.11.12
Source: Landesanstalt für Medien NRW

Uploading someone else’s photos: Hardly any awareness among adolescents

Revealing photos, information about arguments with parents or about bickering in the crowd - the so-called self-disclosure behavior is more frequent among adolescents between 15 and 17 years of age than in any other age group. Along with this behavior comes a risk as it is questionable which data belongs on social networks like Facebook and which does not. Most users between 12 and 24 years of age have restrictive privacy settings (48 per cent "little-revealers'' and 39 per cent 'privacy managers''), but one out of seven (14 per cent 'much-revealers'') uses rather open settings, has many unknown contacts and at the same time shows highly communicative behavior on the internet.

These are two significant results of the new study of the Landesanstalt für Medien NRW (LfM) concerning the data privacy behavior of young people online. The LfM study ‘Digital Privacy: Adolescents and data security on social network platforms’ was presented today (October 29th, 2012) during a conference of experts in Düsseldorf.

Especially among adolescents with low formal education there is a strong need for education regarding the question which and how personal data is made public on social networks. Most users have indeed adjusted their settings concerning their profile, and any other elements of self-portrayal on social networks, in such a way that only contacts added or approved by them have access. These settings seem to have become the new standard. Questionable is, however, how useful the restriction to one’s contact list is if said list also contains unknown people: Especially among younger people it is often enough to only know someone by name or someone’s friends ('friends-of-friends''), which clearly poses a risk.

The LfM study was created by the research center for media management and communications research of the university of Hohenheim (Prof. Dr. Dr. Michael Schenk and Julia Niemann M.A.) together with the chair of teaching and learning at the university of the Bundeswehr München (Prof. Dr. Gabi Reinmann and Jan-Mathis Schnur, M.A.) and the project team 'Projektgruppe verfassungsverträgliche Technikgestaltung'' (provet) at the University of Kassel (Prof. Dr. Alexander Roßnagel and Dr. Silke Jandt). The behavior of more than 1.300 users between the age of 12 and 24 years on social network platforms was analyzed for the survey.

Additional information about the study is available at: www.lfm-nrw.de

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