Teens Take Risks on Social Media Without Thinking of Consequences

The widespread adoption of social media has led to an influx of articles, studies and warnings about how to use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram responsibly. From respecting others to posting non-explicit images, experts say users have to think before they Like, tweet and pin.

Ostensibly, teenagers aren’t getting the message like their older counterparts, says a new study.

Social Media Risk

A team of Pennsylvania State University researchers concluded that teens approach privacy in a substantially different manner than adults. In most cases, adults will think first and then ask, post and share later. However, teens will take significant risks first, suffer the consequences and then seek assistance from adults and professionals.  

Evidently, teens are at greater risks because they use social media as a tool to convey acceptance and express themselves, which could include sharing their personal information, such as phone numbers, addresses and photographs. Once they have determined the ramifications of their actions, teens will seek help from others online, eliminate this information or go offline entirely.

Using data from Pew Research Center’s 2012 Teens and Privacy Management Survey, which garnered the social media behaviors of 588 teens, scientists have put forward the concept of the Privacy Paradox. This means that there is a huge gap for teens when it comes to privacy concerns and the content they post online

"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 Haiyan Jia, post-doctoral scholar in information sciences and technology, in a statement. "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." 

Addicted to Computers

Indeed, a reasonable response by parents once they discover this behavior would be to remove access to the Internet and social media. Study authors say that’s the wrong route to take because it could lead to additional problems down the road.

Jia explained in an interview with Psych Central that it’s extremely difficult for a teen to refrain using the Internet and various online communications platforms in today’s world. At the same time, this could diminish the array of benefits that come with using the Internet in a positive manner. Moreover, this could reduce the educational aspect that teens can get from learning how to manage risk and safely navigating the World Wide Web.

Researchers likened it to learning how to swim.

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"It is a lot like learning to swim," the study authors said in a press release. "You make sure they enter the water slowly and make sure they know how to swim before you let them swim on their own and in the deeper parts." 

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

Do you think Social Media is dangerous or do you think that a lot of fuss is being made over nothing? Your thoughts and comments below?

Penn State University
Psych Central