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Teens, Privacy and Online Social Networks (page 2)

— Pew Internet and American Life Project
Updated on Apr 11, 2011

"Teens realize that in some ways they are more accessible when they are online," says Amanda Lenhart, senior research specialist at the Pew Internet Project and co-author of a new report based on the survey. "They try to strike a balance between being safe from strangers and keeping things private from their parents and other adults, while at the same time sharing enough information that allows them to socialize with friends and perhaps even make new friends."

The survey also suggests that today’s teens face potential risks associated with online life. Some 32% of online teenagers (and 43% of social-networking teens) have been contacted online by complete strangers and 17% of online teens (31% of social networking teens) have “friends” on their social network profile who they have never personally met. The report also addresses how teens make new friends and interact with strangers online.

  • 32% of online teens have been contacted by strangers online – this could be any kind of online contact, not necessarily contact through social network sites.
  • 21% of teens who have been contacted by strangers have engaged an online stranger to find out more information about that person (that translates to 7% of all online teens).
  • 23% of teens who have been contacted by a stranger online say they felt scared or uncomfortable because of the online encounter (that translates to 7% of all online teens).

"Social networking sites are not the first online application to spark worries among parents," says Mary Madden, senior research specialist at the Pew Internet Project and co-author of the report. "In our first study of teen internet usage in 2000, well before social networking sites emerged, many parents were worried that strangers would contact their children online through email and chat rooms. At the time, parents responded to these worries by taking precautions such as monitoring their child's internet use and placing the computer in a public area of the home – much as they do today."

The report, entitled, "Teens, Privacy, and Online Social Networks," is based on a survey conducted by telephone from October 23 through November 19, 2006 among a national sample of 935 youths ages 12 to 17 and on a series of seven focus groups conducted with middle and high-school aged teens in June 2006. The survey has a margin of error in the overall sample of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The Pew Internet Project is a non-profit, non-partisan initiative of the Pew Research Center that produces reports exploring the impact of the internet on children, families, communities, the work place, schools, health care, and civic/political life. Support for the non-profit Pew Internet Project is provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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