Study: Teens Just as Concerned with Online Privacy As Adults

By April 15, 2010

It’s sort of a cliché to say that young people don’t care about online privacy. According to a study by the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Pensylvania, it’s a cliché that is far from the truth.

The study’s findings conclude that privacy concerns among young internet users is as important as it is for older users, despite what appear to be laxening of privacy norms that have led some to think we’re headed into the post-privacy era.

"Yes, there are some young people who are posting racy photographs and personal information," Chris Hoofnagle, co-author of the study, told the Associated Press. "But those anecdotes might not represent what the average young person is doing online."

The study concludes that teen attitudes towards internet privacy are overwhelmingly the same as for older adults, whether it was refusing to give out information to businesses because they thought it was too sensitive, believing one should get permission before posting photos of others online or that executives should face jail time if they post people’s personal data without permission.

Young people are more confident than older users that the government will protect them from privacy breaches. The study did find that there is a lack of understanding among younger users about privacy law, but it’s probably safe to say that that goes for older users as well.

The study concludes that it’s less an apathy towards privacy than it is a reflection of a paradigm shift still in progress. Consumers have never been able to create content for the mass media, and a shift like this is more radical than we think as we participate in it every day.

Some psychological studies have shown that teens are hard-wired for risk-taking behavior, and the study concludes that this might also be one of the reasons they engage in risky behavior online.

There is also the fact that they might be sharing potentially risky content of information to meet certain social norms. Pretty much the same with adults, except we’re not posting photos of ourselves drinking, we’re checking in to trendy bars.

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