Social Media Privacy Implications for Teens

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Theresa Payton


Article by Fortalice Intern Stephanie Graziano

In a world where people have become so consumed and adapted to social networking on a daily basis, it is often overlooked that a person’s shared information on these sites can be used in ways to hurt or ruin their lives, and there’s no taking it back.

Social Networking has become a major trend for teenagers and young adults. With these sites becoming more popular by the day, it is important to raise the awareness of the site's users about the consequences that can come from sharing too much personal information with others.

Each user needs to be careful about what he or she posts on their site profiles, and they need to know how to properly protect their privacy and security.


The sites, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and many others have morphed themselves into every teenager and young adult’s daily routine, and not always to better his or her lifestyle.

Sites like these that encourage its users to upload photos and videos and share personal information with their friends and family. The problem with these applications is that this information is not always used in a positive manner.

Teenagers and young adults don’t understand the consequences that come from posting personal information and how their posts can increase exposure to people that sometimes have less than friendly intentions.

Social networking users need to be educated on how to better protect their security and privacy while using these sites.

The phrase that became a nightly question in everyone’s household, “It’s 10 p.m. do you know where your children are?” has now been revolutionized thanks to social networking sites.

The phrase should start including the question as to whether parents know what their children doing and exactly who are their children are talking with online.

Today, parents feel inferior to the Internet because it holds so much power, and with kids starting to use the Internet at such a young age, some as young as five and six, parents feel less confident in knowing what’s available on the Internet. 

It is becoming more important everyday to educate parents of young teens and adults of the serious consequences that come from being an active member of social networking sites.


  • Parents should stay educated about these different social networking sites that attract their children to the computer every day.
  • School systems around the country should educate their students as well as their public about the risks and consequences that come from sharing too much information on social networking sites.
  • School systems should hold classes or conferences for their students to better help them in providing safer profiles on their preferred site.


Education seems to be one of the leading ways to reduce the implications that come from teenagers and young adults using social networking without understanding the consequences. If school systems and parents focused on this issue with their teenagers, these sites could be considered much safer.

Social networking has picked up within the last few years and it has certainly become a part of our nation’s everyday life with smart phones enabling these sites to be at our finger tips. With users not fully understanding how sharing too much on their profiles could affect their future, we need to be educated on the proper ways to display our information.

In the article titled, “Police detective warns about dark side of the Internet,” Detective Rebekah Lynch stated that “Over 90 percent of American teens use the Internet and 75 percent of them have cell phones. There are social networking sites such as Facebook, chat rooms, e-mail, blogs, file sharing and gaming.

Predators use all these to contact and connect with your kids. The Internet is the most efficient tool ever designed for sex predators.” Lynch explained that a predator can be anyone they choose to be online, anyone that may seem appealing to others, and users may never the truth.

This is a valid point that social networking users may not be contacting who they think they are. A younger user can come into contact with a stranger via social networking and that person can seem friendly and kind; but on the other side of the networking site, that younger user could be chatting with a sex offender.

Lynch went on to discuss that it is vital for parents to educate the children about the dangers of social networking, and to stress to never give out information such as a telephone number or address.


  • Those who talked to people they didn’t know were significantly more likely to be aged 16-24 (22% of those with a social networking page or profile) than 25-34 (7% of those with a profile).
  • 17% of adult users said they talked to people on social networking sites that they didn’t know and 35% spoke to people who were “friends of friends”
  • Having too many Facebook 'friends' and access to different social capital disrupt the sharing process due to experiences of social surveillance and social control. This social control often forces younger people in particular to use conformity as a strategy when sharing content to maintain their privacy.
  • Younger and older adults display completely open public profiles without realizing it.


  • Taking the statistic that states that 17% of adult users of social networking don’t know other uses who they keep in contact with, I find it interesting that after the news that has been reported about the risks social networking opens, users still find it not harmful to stay in touch with strangers through the internet (On Guard Online).
  • On Guard Online states in their article that 22% of 16-24 year olds using social networking do not know who they are sharing their information with. It is that exact age range that is most at risk for facing invasion of privacy from strangers. This age group needs the education about the dangerous side effects of sharing too much.
  • The article, “Too Many Facebook 'Friends'? Content Sharing and Sociability Versus the Need for Privacy in Social Network Sites,” states many social networking users display completely open profiles and do not realize it. This is an important example of why users need to fully understand what they are signing up for. Their profiles could hold information about their personal lives which may not be beneficial to have others know.


  • More advanced privacy settings: Using the site Facebook as an example, as of right now each user is offered to change their privacy settings to how they see fit. Meaning they can set up their profile to each one of their friends in a different way. One friend may be able to view photos, but another may only be able to view their hobbies. If Facebook were to encourage young users to have their profiles be overseen by their parents, then it may be possible for Facebook to allow anyone who is under the age of 18 to only access their Facebook profile, through their parents own profile; that way, teenagers cannot post anything on their pages without their parents’ consent or without them knowing.
  • Help inform teenagers and young adults of the consequences that come from posting personal information and photos. Before signing up to create a profile, each user should be educated on the site about the risks they are taking if they post too much information about themselves. Educate the users on how to safely share their information, before they create their profile.


1. On Guard Online, Quick Facts, September 2007

2. WkiDot, Social Media Statistics

3. Ebsco Host, “Too Many Facebook 'Friends'? Content Sharing and Sociability Versus the Need for Privacy in Social Network Sites”  [International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction] Authors: Brandtzæg,  Petter,  Luders, Marika, Skjetne, Jan Håvard

4. “Police detective warns about dark side of the Internet” Author:  Nikki

Cross-posted from Fortalice

Possibly Related Articles:
Facebook Privacy Social Networking Social Media Kids Education
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David McCauslin I created a "Social Networking Internet Presentation" for the school district I used to work for. The most we ever had attend was 6 families. The sad thing we found was that the parents wanted the kids to stop using the social networks, but few were willing to involve themselves and be part of it.
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