- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 21, 2013

America’s teens appear to be finally catching on to the fact that writing up their latest beer pong triumph or their true feelings about their Spanish teacher on their Facebook page may not be such a great idea.

A new Pew Research Center study released Tuesday suggests that younger Web users are no longer naively revealing personal details to the world through social media profiles.

The report, titled “Teens, Social Media and Privacy” and conducted with Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, found that teens are sharing more personal details online — but also making more of an effort to protect their information using privacy settings.

The survey of 802 youth aged 12 to 17 found that more were willing to post details such as their school name, city of residence, email address, interests, relationship status and a personal photo than youth surveyed in 2006.


Sandra Cortesi, a researcher at the Berkman Center, said focus groups sessions with 156 teens aged 11 to 19 found that teens are using a “filter in their brain” when deciding what to post, due to awareness of possible consequences imposed by adults on Facebook.

“This awareness is a motivation for teens to self-regulate the distribution of content [and] results in self-censoring,” Ms. Cortesi said.

Teens are also taking other steps to control their personal details by deleting previous posts, removing their names from photos, “unfriending” or blocking specific users or deactivating entire accounts.

The survey also reveals some demographic differences in teen social media use. Older teens (aged 14 to 17) are more likely than younger teens (aged 12 to 13) to share personal details. Boys are significantly more likely than girls to share a cell phone number (26 percent vs. 14 percent), while girls are more likely than boys to choose private settings. Black teens are less likely to disclose a real name than white teens (77 percent vs. 95 percent) and more likely to use Twitter.

The good news is teens are apparently becoming less enthusiastic about overshared and dramatic content on Facebook, but they continue to use the platform as “an important part of overall teenage socializing.”

The bad news is that — despite plentiful cautionary tales — teens seem uninterested and unaware about third-party access to their personal information. Only 9 percent said they were “very concerned” about businesses or advertisers having access to their information without their knowledge. In the focus gruops, some middle- and high school students believed Facebook would not share their information with others.