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Teenagers on social media: Understanding & managing privacy

September 4, 2018

Social media changes not only how we communicate, but how we think about our personal information and what we share with the world. It’s important we understand how people are using these tools and the extent to which they are able to manage their privacy. This report, Online Privacy: Will They Care?, looks at how teenagers in low and middle-income countries think about social media and their data privacy.

The analysis — based on interviews with young people across the three areas: Bohol, Philippines; Jakarta, Indonesia and the Kenyan counties of Kiambu and Machakos — finds that teenagers tend to understand privacy to mean being in control of what information they share and who they share it with. However, many interviewees believed that social media companies also have a responsibility to ensure their platforms are secure and are not putting users at risk. In other words, the responsibility for privacy sits with both users and companies.

We found a number of young people who were proactive in trying to maintain control of their privacy, adopting various strategies such as using fake names, making their accounts private and being selective about who they allow to view their content. However, the overwhelming feeling was that once their data is out there, it is no longer within their control — leading to a sense of powerlessness:

“Sometimes, I feel like I don’t have privacy anymore. Even if I do not post often in my accounts, people will still see me in tagged posts, comments, from albums of someone else. Social media has become invasive.”

11-year-old, Bohol, Philippines

The report outlines recommendations that governments, companies and others should pursue to help everyone, particularly young people and other vulnerable groups, maintain control of their information online and mitigate privacy risks.

Download the full report to read the Findings & Recommendations in full.