How Students Feel About Online Privacy

Vol. 17 No. 11

PSN eletter vol17 no11 onlinesecurity

According to the Pew Research Center, 95% of teens report they have access to or own a smartphone. In fact, this ownership is “nearly universal among teens of different genders, races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds.” Additionally, 45% say they’re online on a near-constant basis.

With so much of their lives spent online, it might be easy to assume that teens share every aspect of their day without a care for privacy. But a new research study finds this isn’t necessarily so.

Claire Fontaine, educational researcher at Data & Society, an independent research institute, recently examined how young people feel about their privacy in an increasingly online world. She and her colleagues interviewed 28 young people, ranging from 16 to 26 years of age.

Her qualitative insights are fascinating, and serve to shed light on an issue that has many layers—the total effects of which aren’t fully understood. She found that, “across the board, young people were deeply concerned about privacy and had a great appetite for adult guidance.”

While some teens were cognizant of issues related to the transmission of their personal data to third-party companies, most were worried about privacy when it came to their interpersonal relationships. They expressed concern about what their peers and friends would think of what they posted online, and how what they post now may impact their future.

She said that many interviewees alluded, “to a feeling of self-consciousness and hyper-self-awareness that almost created a form of paralysis.” Others, “spent a lot of energy creating a curated online version of themselves, a virtual version of themselves that would be palatable to a general audience.”

So what is the responsibility of a school and its administrators when it comes to students, their online presence, and privacy? Every school is different and there is no one-size-fits-all recommendation in this rapidly changing environment.

A good place to start is making sure students have information on the full impact their online identity can have on them today, as well as on their future plans. Ensure they know that colleges, universities, and employers will often turn to social media when reviewing an applicant.

Work with your school’s teachers to keep the lines of communication open when it comes to online identity. Give them the tools to answer students’ questions. Some teachers might not be knowledgeable about what’s happening online, so you may consider investing in professional development to help your teachers get up to speed on today’s technology.

Most importantly, help every student see the world around them—including the internet—through a lens of empathy. Make it a focus to be informed about how teens are using social media, and share tips and tricks for safety with them whenever possible.

By promoting global citizenship for our students, we help them learn to navigate a world that is increasingly shared online.

Additional ISM resources:
The Source for School Head Vol. 16 No. 10 Five Ways to Help Your Faculty Adopt New Technology
The Source for Private School News Vol. 17 No. 6 How Schools Can Prepare Students for the STEM Workforce

Additional ISM resources for Gold members:
I&P Vol. 42 No. 5 Marketing Communications and the Parent
I&P Vol. 31 No. 6 The Real World Starts Now: College Prep Is No Longer Enough!

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