How Teens Understand Privacy

In the fall, Alice Marwick and I went into the field to understand teens’ privacy attitudes and practices. We’ve blogged some of our thinking since then but we’re currently working on turning our thinking into a full-length article. We are lucky enough to be able to workshop our ideas at an upcoming scholarly meeting (PLSC), but we also wanted to share our work-in-progress with the public since we both know that there are all sorts of folks out there who have a lot of knowledge about this domain but with whom we don’t have the privilege of regularly interacting.

“Social Privacy in Networked Publics: Teens’ Attitudes, Practices, and Strategies”
by danah boyd and Alice Marwick

Please understand that this is an unfinished work-in-progress article, complete with all sorts of bugs that we will need to address before we submit it for publication. But… we would certainly love feedback, critiques, and suggestions for how to improve it. Given the highly interdisciplinary nature of this kind of research, it’s also quite likely that we’re missing out on all sorts of prior work that was done in this space so we’d love to also hear about any articles that we should’ve read by now. Or any thoughts you might have that might advance/complicate our thinking.

Regardless, hopefully you’ll enjoy the piece!

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5 thoughts on “How Teens Understand Privacy

  1. acm

    Fantastic — gives me renewed confidence in the ability of kids to intuitively navigate the social (and technological) space. Presumably they’ll slip online as well as offline, and one just hopes that neither type is too dire. Meantime, some of the strategies discussed here fascinated (middle-aged) me! thanks!

  2. Doctor Science

    I appreciate the way you point out that for teens the most sought-after privacy is privacy *from parents*. A teen’s home is not her castle, she can’t effectively keep her mom out of her room. Away from home is where she can expect to find privacy and trust.

    We (parents, teachers, caring adults) worry most about what our younglings will reveal to hurtful strangers or ex-friends, but what they worry about is what they’ll reveal to *us*. And If we remembered our own youth honestly, we’d know this already.

    I think of this as the “why can’t they be like we were, perfect in every way” problem.

  3. Clare

    Hi Dana

    I really enjoyed reading this ‘work in progress’. I have 3 teenage kids and your research has confirmed my gut feeling about their perspective on this issue of ‘privacy’. With particular reference to Facebook, I’ve tried to frame it for them more in terms of asking themselves what they would want people outside their friendship groups to have access to (eg prospective employers)and how to make it more difficult for the casual observer to see their ‘stuff’. I’m also in the privileged position that all 3 of my teens are happy to be FB friends with me and I love the window into their lives that I can get without being obtrusive or invasive.

    I think there’s a danger that we adults look at this with adult eyes rather than finding out just what the kids are thinking and doing and your research format lets us hear from the kids themselves. I particularly loved Alicia’s insight into the fact that we are imposing our ‘old values’ onto new technology, whereas they just don’t see it like that.

    Love your blog.

  4. Alice

    Fantastic – thank you for sharing. I recognise our students’ behaviour in so much of this, unlike a lot of the marketing-led reports about Facebook etc.

  5. Gabriella Sannino

    I would be curious if this study would reflect EU teenagers? Probably not.. regardless brilliant research. Very informative kept me captivated till the last page. Amazing how varied our perception are of those young people. I don’t have any kids but looking at them as a business woman I know they are a viable sector of the market especially for future growth and brand recognition. This was of particular interest to me “Social network sites have become the modern-­‐day equivalent of the mall or movie theater, a place where teens can hang out with friends and run into other friends and peers.” Fascinating, really when you consider they’re going to become part of any changes, progress, etc. made in this social media evolution.

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