On Social Media, Teens Take Risks First, Seek Help Later

Jim Liebelt | Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University | Wednesday, March 25, 2015

On Social Media, Teens Take Risks First, Seek Help Later

*The following is excerpted from an online article from PsychCentral.

Teens tend to approach privacy on social media in a significantly different way than adults, according to a new study. While most adults think first and then ask questions, teens tend to take the risk and then seek help.

Teens are typically exposed to greater online risks because they are using social media as a platform for self-expression and acceptance. They may disclose important contact information or photographs with strangers, for example.

"Adults don’t know how big of a deal this is for teens," said Haiyan Jia, post-doctoral scholar in information sciences and technology.

"Adults often find this very difficult to understand and paradoxical because they are so used to considering possible risks of disclosing information online first and then taking the necessary precautions, based on those concerns," said Jia.

"What our model suggests is that teens don’t think this way — they disclose and then evaluate the consequences. The process is more experiential in nature for teens."

"For adults, the basic model is that different factors contribute to an individual’s concern for his or her information privacy and based on that privacy concern the user takes certain actions, for example, disclosing less information," said Pamela Wisniewski, a post-doctoral scholar in information sciences and technology, who worked with Jia. "This is a very rational, adult-focused model, however, that doesn’t seem applicable to teens."

When teens are faced with privacy concerns, they often try to find possible protective actions to diminish risk, according to the researchers. This includes seeking advice from adults, removing online information, or going offline completely.

A parent’s first impulse may be to take away access to the Internet or social media, but completely avoiding risks may cause other problems, said the researchers.

There is "a danger that without taking on the minimum risks, teens will not have access to all the positive benefits the Internet can provide, nor will they learn how to manage risk and how to safely navigate this online world," said Jia.

The researchers presented their findings at the Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing conference.

Source: PsychCentral